Art in Hawai'i can easily become complacent. The tropical atmosphere seems to lend itself to an infinite number of shopping mall-friendly dolphin and sunset paintings. Luckily, we also have art exhibitions like ‘Ili Iho: The Surface Within at the Bishop Museum to show us just how interesting, thoughtful, and sometimes even angry contemporary art can be.
The exhibit, guest curated by UH professor and artist Maile Andrade, features eight local artists all of whom revisit traditional Hawaiian craft and reinterpret it to create contemporary works in dialogue with tradition.
Maile Andrade's rugged quilt of leather gloves, embroidered with the words "Resist" and "Kū.ʻē" (resist in Hawaiian), questions the dichotomy between the supposedly delicate craft of quilting and the rough reality of political unrest. The quilt is reminiscent of another leather glove-based work Andrade exhibited in the Academy Art Center at Linekona's Makua exhibit last year. However, in this case Andrade has utilized shiny black leather as opposed to the worn brown military gloves of her previous installation, underlining the contrast between modern and traditional.
Carl Pao's mixed media work paints over four Hawaiian flags and inscribes them with text taken from the 1849 treaty of friendship between the United States of America and the monarchy of the Hawaiian Islands. The act of whitewashing a flag is perhaps a reference to Jasper Johns' 1955 iconic work White Flag, or perhaps a more literal reference to the whitewashing of Hawaiian culture by the American overthrow and annexation that followed the 1849 treaty.
Maika‘i Tubbs' masterful installation utilizes the casing and tape of old audio cassettes to create a row of birds perched upon branches. The installation plays with themes of native and invasive, creating a tripartite metaphor inviting the viewer to think about issues such as homogenization and obsolescence in the face of new media/species/cultures.
‘Ili Iho: The Surface Within features artists Maile Andrade, April Drexel, Imaikalani Kalahele, Kapulani Landgraf, Marques Marzan, Harinani Orme, Carl Pao and Maika‘i Tubbs. The exhibit will be up at the Bishop Museum from September 20, 2008 through April 5, 2009.
A blog of art happenings in and around Honolulu, Hawai'i