Established in 1950, the Artists of Hawaiʻi exhibition highlights work by artists living in the islands, offering insights on our time and place through contemporary art. In a departure from earlier installments, Artists of Hawaiʻi 2017 features only four artists, rather then the dozen or so artists in recent years, and significantly fewer artists than past iterations that often included 50 or more artists in a single show. This enabled larger gallery space necessary for installation work, and presented wonderful opportunities to collaborate with artists across disciplines.
In a partnership between HoMA and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa School of Dance, professor Peiling Kao and her Dance Improvisation class are developing individual dance pieces in response to the exhibition over the course of the current spring semester. Without fragile objects in the gallery, this exhibition is suitable for unconventional and exciting ways of engaging art. Students in Kao’s class experienced the installation in February by observing the artwork and intuitively developing subtle gestures and movements. I subsequently visited the class to present a lecture on installation art, with a particular focus on Artists of Hawaiʻi 2017, and on April 15 at 11am, Kao and her class will return to HoMA to perform their final composition in the gallery for the public.
We also partnered with the photography group, Analog Sunshine Recorders (ARS), who went on a Photo Holoholo with Kasey Lindley to the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum. More than 20 ARS photographers produced work from the Photo Holoholo using non-digital methods for an exhibition at the HoMA School on view from March 13 to April 1, 2017. These partnerships and programs expand the conversation between the four included in Artists of Hawaiʻi 2017 and over 30 Hawaiʻi-based visual and dance artists in a meaningful way while allowing the space for large-scale installations. Artists of Hawaiʻi 2017 features work by Kasey Lindley, Kaori Ukaji, and collaborators Kaili Chun and Hongtao Zhou. In a shift away from the spectatorship approach to art, these four artists transformed museum galleries into immersive environments, and prompt visitors to reconsider their relationship with art as something experienced passively to something experienced more directly.
Collaborating artists Kaili Chun and Hongtao Zhou invite museum visitors to navigate through a weblike system in their participatory installation titled Net_work. The installation plays with ideas of agency and autonomy in a global economy, and foregrounds notions of self-empowerment within predetermined systems. As visitors enter the system of nets, they will find their own direction on paths that lead through the installation. Net_work intends to prompt introspection on one’s ability to find self-awareness in existing paradigms, and draws attention to Hawaiʻi’s multifaceted connections to the rest of world.
Chun and Zhou chose fishnets as a language appropriate for an installation that situates Hawaiʻi at the center of global engagement. They first projected upon the gallery walls world maps that trace global flows of human immigration, sustainable agriculture patterns emerging internationally, and shipping routes among many others. The artists then used fishnets to essentially draw lines on the walls as they identified paths in the map projections. From there, they stretched the fishnets across the gallery, sculpting space to make visible some of the invisible yet ever-present networks that link Hawaiʻi to other continents, cultures, and people.
Kaori Ukaji is a mixed-media artist whose installation, Serenely Proliferating, includes clippings of her own skin dyed with red pigment, laboriously looped yarn on large-scale canvases, and cell-shaped rolls of tissue paper. Rather than depict an image of the human figure, the artist conceives of the installation through obsessive mark making, and in both method and materials, draws attention to the physicality of the human body as she turns the gallery into an organ with elements that reference cells, veins, and flesh. Ukaji’s recent reckoning with her health prompted Serenely Proliferating as she grappled with the body’s ability to heal itself through cellular production and the natural course of degradation due to age or illness.
Kasey Lindley’s installation, Intertidal Grandeur, uses digital media—moving and still images that she gathered while hiking and swimming on Oʻahu—in combination with watercolor sketches completed on site to reconsider the limitations of landscape painting and nature photography as records of one’s experience in nature. Fragmented and pieced together, Lindley’s paintings, color photographs, and video footage disrupt idyllic modes of presenting the natural world in favor of a multi-sensory interpretation focused on the intertidal zone, the geographical area where the ocean meets the shore.
Depending on the tides, organisms in this zone alternate between being submerged below and exposed above water. To live in the intertidal zone means being able to withstand extreme fluctuations in salinity, water levels, and exposure to sunlight. Interested in this ecosystem’s flourishing beauty and resilient marine life, Lindley draws a metaphoric parallel to the resilience and adaptability of Hawaiʻi at large to withstand the constant natural and human-induced waves of change. Lindley creates an immersive environment in the gallery where visitors are invited to contemplate their relationship with nature.
Interconnectivity is an undercurrent that runs through all three Artists of Hawaiʻi 2017 installations. Together, the ideas explored in the installations underscore connections one has to one’s own body, to the natural world, and to the global network in various media including video, skin, and synthetic fishnets.
Pictured at top, left to right: Hongtau Zhou, Kaili Chun, Healoha Johnston, Kasey Lindley, and Kaori Ukaji