Art Honolulu

A blog of art happenings in and around Honolulu, Hawai'i

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Last Shot: Mark Maresca, Dieter Runge & Calvin Collins

Today is the last day to view the recent graduates Mark Maresca, Dieter Runge and Calvin Collins' group exhibit at Koa Gallery at Kapiolani Community College. The show, titled "Caution, Righteous, Thirst" focuses on painting and assemblage, and is largely process-oriented.

Art in Motion: Tamra Davis' Jean-Michel Basquiat on Film

The jaunty opening trumpet riff to Dizzy Gillespie's bebop collaboration with drummer Kenny Clarke announces the opening of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, and sets the tone for the rest of the film. Director Tamra Davis' choice of Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts," as well as the rest of the soundtrack, may be the highlight of the film. Davis' rapid-fire assemblage of sound and image serves to mirror Basquiat's working technique. Her use of bebop standards, sliced together with interviews from Basquiat's friends, lovers, gallerists and patrons from the New York downtown scene of the late 1970s to mid-1980s, depicts a very intimate side to Basquiat's rapid rise to fame. Although at times Davis' directorial choices appear clouded by her own fondness for the subject, the film on the whole is a useful and informative documentation of the artist's life.

At the heart of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child is an interview Davis shot with Basquiat in 1985. Davis' friendship with the subject and involvement in the downtown scene gave her an insider's entree to Basquiat's world. However, she put aside the footage after Basquiat's overdose in 1988 and put the entire project on hold, fearing that any further project activity would be capitalizing on the artist's untimely death. The footage is only now being shown for the first time.

Davis cuts up this core interview, and intersplices it with more recent interviews with figures ranging from art world heavyweights Jeffrey Deitch and Larry Gagosian, to fellow artists Fab 5 Freddy and Julian Schnabel, to former girlfriend (now successful psychiatrist) Suzanne Mallouk. These interviews tell a story that's already well known: that of the genius artist who rises to fame from the squalor of the underbelly of New York largely removed from his Caribbean roots, whose influence is equal parts street culture and some internal and unspoken drive towards destiny. What is left unsaid is much detail on Basquiat's high school years or younger, or on his ongoing drug problems (which one might surmise from the film, entirely inaccurately, only occurred in the last few years of his life).

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, was screened last month in Honolulu as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival but lucky art patrons will have a second opportunity to see it this week during several screenings at the Doris Duke Theatre of the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Art for the Audience: Wayne Levin, Margo Ray, Casey Neumann, Jacqueline Rush Lee and Madeleine Söder at TCM First Hawaiian Center

Populism has its perks. The Contemporary Museum's Inger Tully has chosen a savvy approach to curating her downtown First Hawaiian gallery space in recent exhibitions: bifurcating the space into two independent spheres. Downstairs, she touts viewer-friendly, easily accessible works like the currently exhibited (and widely applauded) series of Papahānaumokuākea photographs by Wayne Levin. Upstairs, she curates to a slightly more curious crowd with works that sometimes take a bit longer to unfold for the viewer.

Currently on view upstairs is a selection of works by four female artists: Margo Ray, Casey Neumann, Jacqueline Rush Lee and Madeleine Söder. Although this is not an exhibit about gender per se, certain affinities do appear between the grouping, including an emphasis on domestic or found materials, an exploration of the line, and a careful attention to the craftsmanship of the object.

Margo Ray, Containment Landscape #13, Wiliwili with Biplane (2010)

Ray creates bright, playful compositions on canvas utilizing paint, cut paper, and photo digital collage. Her images draw heavily from her own childhood and home in Waimea, on the Big Island. Although the constructed relationship between man-made structures and the vibrantly depicted natural world might at first glace suggest commentary on the encroaching economy of real estate development, the carefully spaced compositions and playful tones keep Ray's works from ever appearing too critical.

Jacqueline Rush Lee Loren, Ipsum II: From the Summer Reading Series (2010)

Ray's canvases, and one large free-standing sculpture take up the majority of the upstairs exhibition space, with Casey Neumann, Jacqueline Rush Lee and Madeleine Söder being exiled to the rear hallway. However, this is where Tully hides the most interesting work of the exhibition: Söder's carefully crafted forms in printed silk organza hang delicately and twist in the drafts. Neumann's prints walk the fine line between organic and architectural. And Lee's repurposed book forms continue to serve as some of the more thoughtful work being created on Oahu.

Act quickly to see the last bit of this exhibit! The exhibitions runs July 2, 2010 through October 15, 2010.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Reality Television Without Tears

Art:21, the Peabody Award-winning television documentary series on contemporary art, is coming to Honolulu. The UH Manoa Art Department in conjunction with The Contemporary Museum will be hosting an advance screening that is free and open to the public this Tuesday at 7:00pm at the UH Manoa Art Auditorium.

Although the exact episode to be screened at the Honolulu preview is still under wraps, the 5th season of Art:21 is jam-packed with interview gems. In an episode themed "Compassion," artists William Kentridge, Carrie Mae Weems and Doris Salcedo are profiled. Artists Julie Mehretu, John Baldessari, Kimsooja and Allan McCollum are featured in another episode themed around "Systems."

Although nothing beats a big screen, have no fear if you can't make it to the UH Manoa screening: the televison show is on the PBS Hawaii television lineup for Wednesday nights, and full episodes are also available online.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Art and Design at the Hawaii International Film Festival

The Hawaii International Film Festival doesn’t need any help being hip, but they’ve turned it up a notch at this year’s festival with a terrific series of films addressing design-related topics. Here’s a quick run-down of their picks. My top choices include a documentary about the recently-deceased architecture photographer Julius Shulman, and a documentary about the underground world of rock concert poster-designing graphic artists.

Art & Copy

Art & Copy is a powerful new film about advertising and inspiration. Directed by Doug Pray, it reveals the work and wisdom of some of the most influential advertising creatives of our time - people who’ve profoundly impacted our culture, yet are virtually unknown outside of their industry. Exploding forth from advertising’s “creative revolution” of the 1960s, these artists and writers all brought a surprisingly rebellious spirit to their work in a business more often associated with mediocrity or manipulation.

October 22, 7:00pm
October 23, 3:00pm

Died Young Stayed Pretty

Rebellious, ironic, vulgar and, at times, a bit demented. Welcome to the underground world of the rock poster graphic artist, a renegade outcast who knows the value of octopus imagery and 70s porn. Inspired by a personal tragedy, Director Eileen Yaghoobian’s raw, uncontrollable documentary mirrors the visual rant of its subject, showing why the waning world of rock poster art is more than just an advertising tool of the music industry.

October 23, 8:30pm
October 24, 9:00pm

Milton Glaser: To Inform And Delight

From newspapers and magazine designs, to interior spaces, logos, and brand identities, to his celebrated prints, drawings, posters and paintings, this documentary offers audiences a rich appreciation of one of the great modern renaissance men. Artfully directed by first time filmmaker Wendy Keys, the film glances into everyday moments of Milton Glaser’s personal life and captures his immense warmth, humanity and the boundless depth of his intelligence and creativity.

October 17, 8:30pm
October 20, 11:30am


Objectified is a feature-length independent documentary about industrial design. It is a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets. The film documents the creative processes of some of the world’s most influential designers, and looks at how the things they make impact our lives. What can we learn about who we are, and who we want to be, from the objects with which we surround ourselves?

October 21, 6:15pm
October 23, 1:00pm

And a couple HIFF films that didn’t make it into the series, but should have:

Ed Hardy: Tattoo The World

Ed Hardy. You’ve seen his name on clothing worn by Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, and Mick Jagger, on wine and energy drinks and dozen of other commercial products. Directed by Emiko Omori, whose documentaries have received critical acclaim (Rabbit In The Moon, Sundance 1999), Ed Hardy: Tattoo The World chronicles the journey of Hardy’s phenomenal rise to cult icon and the evolution of his personal art.

October 17, 7:15pm
October 24, 10:30am

Visual Acoustics

Visual Acoustics celebrates the life and career of Julius Shulman, the world’s greatest architectural photographer, whose images brought modern architecture to the American mainstream. His images epitomized the singular beauty of Southern California’s modernist movement and brought its iconic structures to the attention of the general public. This unique film is both a testament to the evolution of modern architecture and a joyful portrait of the magnetic whip-smart gentleman who chronicled it with his unforgettable images.

October 16, 1:00pm
October 24, 5:30pm

All films are held at Dole Cannery, and tickets can be purchased by phone at 808-548-5905, through the internet, or in person at their box office across the street from the Dole Cannery theaters. If you’re considering seeing six or more films, membership is a good deal. If you’re broke, volunteering in exchange for free tickets is an even better deal.

Vault Diving goes Digital at the Honolulu Academy of Arts

Exciting things are afoot at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Their Hokusai exhibit just opened, they have a new UH art student artist in residence, and they’ve got some spick-and-span newly renovated restroom facilities. But perhaps most exciting of all are the the developments happening beyond museum walls. In a study of doing more with less, the Academy has been tirelessly experimenting with innovative ways to reach out to the public through new media.

The newest tool in the Academy’s clickable arsenal is eMuseum, an online database of the museum’s permanent collection, accessible through the museum’s website. Like most museums, the Academy’s galleries only hold a small percentage of the total number of objects contained in the collection; the rest remain hidden in the vaults for years and sometimes decades at a time. Through eMuseum, the public now has access to these objects.

To complement the Hokusai exhibit, eMuseum currently showcases some 4,000 Japanese woodblock prints from the permanent collection. Most object entries contain information including the title, date, artist and printer as available, medium, donor to the museum, short description, and a photograph of the object. Plans are in the works to add more objects from the permanent collection to the eMuseum database over time.

Art museums across the country have been gradually making this shift towards giving the public access to their permanent collections through online databases. However, for smaller museums with limited staff, or larger museums with predominantly digitally undocumented collections, creating an online database available for public access can be a cost-prohibitive proposition. The Academy brings these resources to the public for the first time thanks to the support of the Robert F. Lange Foundation.

Although online databases of museum permanent collections such as the Academy’s eMuseum are most obviously useful for scholars and collectors looking to research specific artists and other art topics, some museums have taken online databases a step further. The Brooklyn Museum crowd-sources their database by allowing for interactive object tagging by the public. So, for example, what if you’re looking for an object in the Brooklyn Museum’s collection that might be described as “Pee Wee”? They’ve got it. SFMOMA seamlessly integrates their database with educational resources including background-providing write-us, visuals, audio and video extras.

I look forward to seeing what sorts of exciting new uses the Honolulu Academy of Arts thinks up for eMuseum. Judging from the museum’s innovative use of new media, from their blog and Flickr account to Twitter feed and Facebook page to participation in the cross-country digital photography scavenger hunt Wikipedia Loves Art, one thing remains clear: the e-future for the Academy is anything but stagnant.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Seeing The Unseeing: Rinus Van de Velde Explores Meaning-Making at Interisland Terminal's Inaugural Exhibition

Rinus Van de Velde is the kind of artist that writers can't get enough of, simply because there is so much to say. His work packs the double punch of being both visually interesting and conceptually rigorous. The primary outlet of his work, drawing, is a daily routine for Van de Velde, who uses an extensive personal archive of photographic clippings from old issues of National Geographic, film stills and internet sources to recreate the images in dark charcoal on white paper. The drawings couple these appropriated images with mismatched text, forming new meaning through context. For his recent exhibition in Honolulu curated by Wei Fang of Interisland Terminal, Van de Velde created a group of drawings that together coalesced around the theme of the unseen.

Rinus Van de Velde

Van de Velde's frequent use of National Geographic magazine images, favoring ethnographic snapshots from the 1950s and 60s, creates an easy link to postcolonial discourse. However, the drawings chosen for Interisland Terminal's exhibition (unexpectedly, considering the Hawaii location), speak more to a playful investigation of semiotics through verbal/visual mashup.

Rinus Van de Velde

The drawings, although varied in subject matter and text, all seem to be on some level preoccupied with the theme of seeing the unseen. In Another Exercise in Solitude, a watery cloud of a dozen pairs of swimming flippers loom above the viewer, water surface hiding the figures heads. It is only the most foreground figure who, head resting below the surface, looks down towards darkness. I Take It All Back. Who Sees It Anyway (Forget The Background) depicts a loose line of smooth black rocks receding into the distance, becoming gradually smaller and less perceptible. The text mocks the viewer, asking "who sees it." Who sees what?

Rinus Van de Velde

Through their lack of singular meaning, the drawings themselves serve as proof of the frailty of visual description and the corresponding pliability of text. Van de Velde's sketchy strokes of charcoal, effective visual descriptors without being overly exact, serve to further remind the viewer of the presence of the artist within the work: if the artist is the meaning-maker, his intentions are left intentionally vague.

RVDV: HI, Drawings by Rinus Van de Velde
, was on exhibit at Interisland Terminal's temporary gallery space in Kamuki from July 16 through July 26, 2009.