Opening July 27 at Spalding House is The World Reflected, an exhibition of works from the contemporary collection that have something to say. With things like the travel ban, Brexit, health care debacles, Saudi power struggles, and Russia running interference, it seemed like a good time to focus on art that touches on current issues.

Aaron Padilla, director of learning and engagement, has been curating the exhibitions at Spalding House since 2013 and this is his final one, as he focuses on overseeing programming for the museum. “A key function of art is to provide commentary and insight on the world around us,” says Padilla. “It can be critical or affirmative, and focus on the sensational or the mundane. I selected works that address topics such as identity, ethnic inequality, colonialsm and environment—all important issues for Hawai‘i, but also the world.”

Included in the show is Wav(er)ing Flags by Vito Acconci, who died in April while Padilla was putting the exhibition together. A New York artist known for his provocative performance pieces in the 1960s and 70s, he moved on to design public spaces such as parks and airport rest areas. He also made this print that came out of a proposed sculpture project for the St. Louis Convention Center —a wall studded with sets of triangular trusses holding mirrored, stainless-steel panels that spell out the Pledge of Allegiance, the words etched in red, white and blue neon light.

For his print, Acconci superimposes a billowing American flag with the Pledge of Allegiance. Looking almost like notes on a musical score. He asks us to scrutinize these two icons of American culture—at a time when the government has introduced travel bans, forcing us to reassess what things like “close family” means, what does the pledge mean? What does it mean to be patriotic in 2017?

We think The World Reflected will have you thinking, and if you bring someone with you, it will have you talking. Share your thoughts on the artwork with us on social media. Tag @honolulumuseum on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Vito Acconci (American, 1940-2017)
Wav(er)ing Flags, 1990
Lithograph in blue and red on white wove paper