Now on view in Art Deco Hawai‘i is the sculpture Horse and Rider by Roy King. The muscle-bound steed and warrior look like they are hurtling into the future. Theresa Papanikolas, the museum’s curator of European and American art as well as of Art Deco Hawai‘i, reveals how the exhibition brought the sculpture home.

“In 2010, when I was starting to think about a show on Art Deco in Hawai‘i, a postcard advertisement from a gallery in Maine crossed my desk. On it was a photo of Roy King’s Horse and Rider. It was so clearly in the style of the exhibition I was just beginning to conceive. So I contacted the gallery to find out about the sculpture. They gave me the information they had, and put me in touch with his family—that’s how I found out that Roy King had spent many years here creating architectural sculpture. He worked with all the top architects active in Hawai‘i at the time, including Bertram Goodhue, who designed the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

“While he was here, Roy King carved Horse and Rider out of monkeypod wood and entered it in the 1940 Association of Honolulu Artists annual exhibition—which was held here at the museum—where it won first prize for sculpture. It was exhibited in one of the museum’s courtyards as an example of garden art, because King wanted to show how art could embellish the outdoor setting—particularly since the indoor-outdoor lifestyle is so central to Hawai‘i living. (A Honolulu Advertiser article on the exhibition states, ‘The crispness of the show this year was made possible by large, garden sculpture displayed in the open courts against floral forms. Sculptor Roy King is responsible for this idea and it is hoped that local people will plan their courts and gardens with the idea that these need decoration to set them off to the best advantage.’) King was particularly interested in the horse and rider form—he did three others. In Hawai‘i, he became a student of “Hawaiianness,” and was interested in the centrality of horses in “ancient Hawai‘i”—an example of how people in this period re-imagined and reinterpreted what they thought was history.

We were able to acquire Horse and Rider in 2013, in anticipation of Art Deco Hawai‘i—so it’s come full circle. It was first exhibited here at the museum, then through Roy King’s family it had an odyssey across the country, and, through several galleries, made its way back to the museum, where it is on view in Art Deco Hawai‘i. After the exhibition closes, it will go on permanent display in the Holt Arts of Hawai‘i Gallery.”

Roy King (American, 1903-1986)
Horse and Rider, 1939
Monkeypod wood
Honolulu Museum of Art
Purchase, 2013 (2013-14-01)