Regular blog readers may remember that earlier this month, curator of contemporary art James Jensen visited Lauren Trangmar, Emily McIlroy, and Alison Beste to see what they were working on for Artists of Hawai‘i 2015. As the exhibition draws closer, Jensen made two more studio visits last week.


Nestled between two hulking garage doors in the Kaka‘ako labyrinth is the narrow entryway to .5ppi’s studio (formerly the gallery SPF Projects). Inside are industrial racks filled with white sheets of printer paper and more than a few ink-stained blocks of wood—the main tools of the .5ppi collective—and Duncan Dempster, executive director of the Honolulu Printmakers.

Using a set of computer algorithms, the collective translates digital images into analog woodcuts. Everything from images of a sine wave to videos of street traffic get processed into black and white pixels, then printed using analog wood blocks, scanned, blown up, and presented as a collage of papers, a mural, or even sequenced for video. “At this point we’ve probably printed out about 4,000 sheets of paper for this exhibition,” says Dempster. “By the time it goes on view it’s likely to be about twice that.”

Among the highlights of .5ppi’s work is a video projection of sequenced prints. As Jensen sat for a private screening of the work, he discussed with Dempster  logistical aspects of the installation, such as whether to show one video, or multiple videos side-by-side simultaneously, how far away the projector should be, and the size of the wall onto which the video will be projected.

According to Dempster, an ongoing theme for .5ppi is viewing their work through a phone. They’re in the process of developing an app that will translate anyone’s pictures into a .5ppi-style black-and-white pixelated image. “We hope to be finished developing this app soon, because we’d like people to be able to take away something from the show,” says Dempster.

.5ppi's video projection

.5ppi’s video projection

Elisa Chang

Just up the hill and around the corner from the museum is Elisa’s Chang’s apartment. Inside, Chang shoos one of her cats off the kitchen countertop so she can lay out a selection of rough prints of her series of candid digital shots, before offering Jensen drinks and pastries.

Against the wall are a few images with white frames. “I like those,”. When Chang asks why, Jensen responds, “Because I think there’s so much going on in each of these images, the white helps to contain it.”

As Chang and Jensen shuffle through a pile of inkjet prints, they start to narrow down which images should be used in the exhibition. After a quick back and forth—“No, you tell me what you think is best,” “No, you tell ME what YOU think is best,”—Jensen offers his insight as to which images most engage him.

Then they discuss how they might best use the space available in the gallery. Realizing that he didn’t bring a floor plan, Jensen flattens his recently used crinkled pastry pouch and sketches a rough visualization of the floor plan for Chang. They then reference it to discuss how they might arrange Chang’s photographs to create a narrative. In doing so they ask questions like, “Which images have the right colors?” and, “What kind of feelings exist in the images?”

Chang and Jensen narrowing down the photographs

Chang and Jensen narrowing down the photographs

Don’t miss Artists of Hawai‘i 2015, on view July 2-October 25.