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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Identity Politics: Humor and Gesture in the Making of Self

Dürer did it with religious aspirations, Van Gogh did it with psychological strain, and some people even say that Leonardo did it with the Mona Lisa: Self portraiture is a sort of rite of passage for artists. At the HPU Art Gallery this winter, two emerging artists explore concepts of self through a series of works. The dual-billed show, featuring Rudiments by Mark Fujishige and Vanity by Mat Kubo, utilizes graphic rendering of the artists' own visages to address issues of identity.

Mat Kubo, Article 7

Kubo has culled images from 15 years of old snapshots and re-worked them into squares of baltic birch plywood. These cut-outs form a sort of detailed stencil bearing his image. The strength of the exhibit comes in its numbers. Lining the entry foyer of HPU's Kaneohe campus, the pieces in Vanity form an investigation of Kubo's various physical permutations over the years.

Installation view of Mat Kubo, Vanity

Kubo's work is injected with his trademark tongue-and-cheek humor through the choice of title. But while self-portraiture may provide artist with a cheap, readily-available subject, and even perhaps an outlet for certain artists' self-adorations, it is not without its own complexities. To undergo a series of self portraits is to embark upon a mandatory time of self reflection. For Kubo, that reflection is one of assimilation. The memories of the past become white-washed, devoid of color or depth and engulfed in a plywood sameness. The stencils are outlines of history, pointing to a prior era but remaining removed from the intricacies of that snapshot in time.

Mark Fujishige, Untitled

Mark Fujishige's self portraiture takes a very different tact. Utilizing intricately layered line upon paper, Fujishige builds images through swirling ink pattern. The method of layers of line does a good job on conveying depth of surface while simultaneously doing the more important work of marking the artist's movements onto paper. Unlike Kubo's gestures towards past memories, Fujishige's Rudiments are all about the present, and the act of creation.

Mark Fujishige, Flexibility

The gesture towards creation is made explicit in Fujishige's Flexibility, in which hands reach out to touch each other. The work is a self-portrait on multiple levels. More than just describing Fujishige's exterior image, it records his act of creation through the labored use of intricately drawn lines. The work has become residue and record for Fujishige's working process and state as an artist.

Rudiments and Vanity were on display at the HPU Art Gallery from January 25 through March 6, 2009. Mat Kubo will also be featured in the Contemporary Museum's upcoming exhibit 20 Going On 21, to open March 19.

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