The Honolulu Printmakers’ 90th Annual Exhibition opens March 7 at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. Founded in 1928, by a group of artists that included Charles Bartlett, the group has attracted some of Hawai‘i’s best artists over the decades and promoted printmaking. To commemorate the milestone, the Honolulu Printmakers exhibition that showcases a juried selection of the best print work by artists from all over the state of Hawai‘i will also include feature a retrospective of Gift Prints from previous years, as well as a timeline of significant events throughout the history of the organization. This year’s juror is artist Shelley Thorstensen, who operates the Printmakers Open Forum in Oxford, Pennsylvania, and the Gift Print artist is Carl F.K. Pao.

Museum collections manager Brady Evans also happens to be the Honolulu Printmakers’ current board president. I caught up with him in the lithography studio, where members were hard at work, putting the finishing touches on their submissions, to learn more about this year’s exhibition and programs.

What is the origin story of the Honolulu Printmakers?
Honolulu Printmakers—originally called Print Makers, with a space—was kind of like a collector’s club or a print guild, started in 1928. It’s only a year younger than the museum. Then in the 1980s, artists Marcia Morse and Laura Smith started the Honolulu Printmaking Workshop. The two groups merged and moved to the Linekona building around 1993, not long after it opened.

Have there been Gift Prints every single year?
Gift Prints started in 1933. Since then I think there’s been one every year beginning with Charles Bartlett. Originally the Gift Print was something that you were given when you joined the Printmakers. Later they were available for purchase and it was a fairly inexpensive way to collect prints by well-known artists. Over the years it has evolved to become a fundraiser for the organization.

Tell us about the Gift Prints retrospective.
We’re featuring six Gift Prints from significant moments in Hawai’i’s history. Elsie Das’s print from 1945, depicts women working for the City and County. There’s one by Nils Paul Larson about construction in Hawai’i, called Progress, Auwe!, which was made in 1960 and remains very timely. Russell Davidson’s 1969 print Banana Lithograph, was controversial for a funny reason and the director at the time actually resigned over it. Anne Miura’s 1981 print is about Kaho’olawe, which is still being restored.

What can you tell me about Carl F.K. Pao’s 2018 Gift Print?
I worked with Carl along with Duncan and Theresa Papanikolas to help develop his print over the summer—he’s a very well-respected artist and his imagery is really strong. He already had an image that he wanted to show, Makalau. He moved to the Big Island in the middle of the printing process but still stayed on deadline!

How did you pick this year’s juror, Shelley Thorstensen?
We have a separate committee and we basically just go through a bunch of names. The whole point is to bring people that are outside of this community so they can come and pollinate our community with their knowledge and techniques and connections. Shelley runs a print organization, so I want to talk to her about community building and how she runs her organization. And that’s really helpful for us, to be able to learn from outside artists.

What changes have you seen in the organization over the years you’ve been involved?
Last year [the Honolulu Printmakers’ board] decided to change the rules and allow fully digital prints in the exhibition for the first time. It had been brought up 12 years earlier and—looking back at text of that debate—digital printing was a lot different then than it is now. That was one of the arguments that I brought up during the discussion—that you can make really high-quality digital prints now. Also, there are a lot of elements of physical printmaking in digital imaging—the layers, the type of paper that you choose, and the presentation all have a similar intention to traditional printmaking. The Risograph workshop last year was another impetus to push for fully digital works, because how can we promote the Risograph [a brand of digital duplicator] and then say you can’t show those prints in the exhibition? I hope to see people use those newly open parameters to challenge themselves more, and so far they are.

What are you looking forward to in this year’s exhibition?
I’m looking forward to seeing the kind of works that Shelley chooses and what she’s drawn to, what kind of a vision she has for the exhibition. I’m also looking forward to seeing if anyone does print installations like they did last year. It’s nice to have that alongside the traditional printmaking methods, in harmony together.

What do you see in the future for Honolulu Printmakers?
Our mission hasn’t changed, so we will continue promoting print culture in Hawai’i and giving printmaking artists in Hawai’i a place where they can show their work, sell their work, and be able to support themselves.

Honolulu Printmakers 90th Annual Exhibition, March 7-24

Opening reception: Wednesday, March 7, 5-7pm, free. Includes awards ceremony, pūpū, and entertainment by Aloha Got Soul,.

Gallery walkthrough: Friday, March 16 at 6pm. Artists lead a free tour of the exhibition.

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