The Schaefer International Gallery in Kahului has white walls, hardwood floors and high ceilings. There is no music and the room echoes nearly any and every sound. When you walk through the front door, there is a wall a little to the right that has large silver letters assigning the left side of the room to Ron Smith and the right to Stephen Freedman.
Smith’s works are all bright colors and clean-cut designs. One display takes up most of an entire wall with 20 Buddhas in a sort of pyramid formation. Most of the Buddhas are plain black silhouettes, but on the bottom row there are some on the end that are neon lit outlines in red and blue. One of which seems to be bouncing away. The work is “Untitled” but in parenthesis reads “Twenty Buddhas with one or so reaching enlightenment.”
Buddhas are one of Smith’s signature characters in this exhibit, as well as flame-throwing fire extinguishers, people with lightning bolt-SS’s on their chests, and rocks. One work is made up of six neon outlines of men with the “SS” on their chests all in different colors.
“SS men were the worst of the worst in Hitler’s Germany,” says Smith. “It’s symbolism, but it’s tongue in cheek because they are very non-threatening caricatures.”
Smith says he brings this kind of humor throughout the show by “removing the seriousness” and “twisting things around to build contradictions.”
The other side of the gallery is artwork made up of clay in earth tones. There are four sections of four square white pillars with Freedman’s works perched on top. The pieces are pottery that has been altered so that they are bent, torn or give the impression of dripping or melting. Smaller pots are squished into the larger pots. “The vessel became the body for me,” says Freedman. “I manipulate it to change, move, and grow as our bodies do.”
In a large piece in the center of the room, Stephen Freedman has stacked pots of all sizes with the largest ones sort of making the totem while smaller ones push out from every direction. Some of the pots seem to be dripping even smaller pots. Freedman says he caught himself making “smaller and smaller vessels that are part of a larger and larger whole.”
Near the front of the room are the tall thin totems, all slightly curving. They are pale in color and look to be made of cement. Although mostly gray, what made this piece so interesting was the fact that each totem had a bit of blue, even if you have to search for it. It turns out these totems are made from mud loosely packed into a mold and fired. The blue comes from copper thrown or left in the kiln.
In front of a half wall is a piece shaped like a vase standing approximately four feet tall. Words have been cut out completely. This work is titled “Moments.” If you walk circles around it, you will read a quote from his book Roberto’s Head, “Amongst moments within the Pantheon are moments such as these,” which trails off as it reaches the floor. MTW