One of the best ways to see the front lines of the art world is to visit the annual Juried Exhibition at the Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center. This free art show started in early January and will hang through Feb. 17. For this year’s show, the Hui invited Duncan Dempster to curate. This collection of art has no theme; in fact, Dempster admits he went visceral to choose pieces.
“Ultimately, my selections were based on gut reactions and fleeting judgments rather than a unified philosophy of jurying,” says Dempster. “As a viewer I think it’s always critical to remain open to chance and surprise. My baseline for judgment was not a demonstration of technical proficiency or mastery. I value ambition and confidence in work, but also risk taking and vulnerability. Often times I’m most interested in work that eludes easy understanding, and raises more questions than answers. I’m also drawn to works that seem to operate on their own terms, with disregard for history or the proper way something should be done.”
Dempster teaches printmaking at the University of Hawaii, and is the executive director of Honolulu Printmakers. It was interesting to see what risks Dempster took with the show. The show features both local and mainland artists. Some pieces are immediately striking, while others left me wishing Dempster was there to describe what his gut was feeling when he looked at it.
“For this exhibition I looked for instances of artists articulating a compelling personal voice through their work,” says Dempster. “While resisting the impulse to try to make this show about the locale, I did select several pieces that evoke a strong sense of place in ways that are non-sentimental, oblique or complex.”
I often turn to art and artists to sort out some of the monkey business in the political arena. They have a wonderful way of filtering bullshit, which refreshes me. Tongue in cheek or not, Mike Takemoto’s “Dinner Time at Gitmo” was just one of the stand-outs in the show for me. This ink-on-paper work, mounted on a silk scroll, was lovely and disturbing at the same time. Another was Jefferson Stillwell’s mixed-media “What Now,” which featured Lady Liberty in a bullseye.
Other striking piece was more off the wall. The collection of old copper pipes and fittings by Barclay Hill called “Plumber’s Nightmare” was oddly comforting–if only I had the $5,400 needed to purchase it. The found object artwork by Courtney Morihiro titled “The Dead Zone” made me look twice; in fact, each time I looked I liked it more.
I always marvel at textile arts and Sheri Levin McNerthney’s “Gathering Chi,” a shibori on silk with selective degumming, is a favorite. McNerthney says the degumming process is difficult, and she put a lot of work into this piece, but it’s so subtle. The giant mandala of white on white shibori is stealthy–you have to look closely to see it, yet the mandala dominates the artwork. It’s ghostly and beautiful.
There’s a lot of fine art to appreciate as well. Sarah Voyer’s watercolor “Growing” is so beautiful, delicate and intricate that you want to cry for it. Local artist Tania Arens, an instructor at the Hui and tattooist, produced a monotype titled “Rocks” with great movement, color and brush strokes in the waves. Lynette Pradiga’s colorful giant twin frames jump off the wall at you in “A Drop in the Ocean,” when you first enter the show. Some of the abstract and organic shapes were put together by torn pages of old Japanese newsprint and World War II paperback novels, a fun surprise that added even more depth up close.
The show provides a surprise around every corner. It’s a welcome respite to the world at large.
Annual Juried Exhibition 2017
Through Feb. 17
Gallery open daily, 9am-4pm
2841 Baldwin Ave., Makawao