Israel Ka‘ano‘i Kamakawiwo‘ole, born on May 20, 1959, was an ambassador of aloha and Hawaiian music to the world. Sadly, he passed away in June 1997 at the age of 38. In observance of Bruddah Iz’s birthday, we are highlighting a portrait of him by Yan Pei-Ming, who created this painting a few months after IZ’s death as an artist-in-residence for the Crossings ‘97: France/Hawaii state-wide exhibition. This dynamically gestural portrait of IZ with closed eyes suggests a death mask, portraying the intensity of emotion and feeling expressed through the singer’s remarkable voice.
As a Chinese émigré based in France, Yan Pei-Ming is associated with the Chinese New Wave art movement, which gained momentum in the mid-1980s in Europe and the United States. He is best known for monumental portraits of figures, including Mao Zedong, Bruce Lee, and Pope John Paul II. Striking for their arrangement of sweeping gestures with thick, visceral paint, his paintings often maintain a balance between abstraction and figuration, echoing the same concern of Neo-Expressionist painters in Germany and the United States.
– E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion