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Installations by Jennifer Steinkamp and "Spinal Tap" member Harry Shearer at Honolulu Academy of Arts
Ken Fandell, Finger.
HONOLULU.- TCM/Spalding House’s exciting fall program of exhibitions, installations and a mural opened Oct. 20. Minimalist masterpieces, ceramics and video installations comprise a diverse, engaging menu of contemporary art to explore in Makiki Heights. They remain on view through Jan. 29.

Jennifer Steinkamp: Mike Kelley
In honor of past teachers in her life, Los Angeles artist Jennifer Steinkamp created a series of computer video projections of trees dedicated to them. This installation is an homage to Steinkamp’s teacher at Art Center College of Design, Mike Kelley, an artist who is one of the progenitors of the Los Angeles contemporary art scene. While Steinkamp’s works draw from the heritage of the 1960s southern California-based light-and-space artists, such as James Turrell and Robert Irwin, she uses advanced digital technology to achieve the effects of her wall-size projections and room installations that explore ideas about space, motion, and perception.

Mike Kelley comprises high-definition video projections of individual trees made with 3-D animation software. The branches of the trees move in a silent wind while they cycle from bare branches to budding shoots to blossoming flowers to green leaves, reflecting the passage of time and change of seasons. The work has a mesmerizing, fairy-tale-like effect. For each place the work is exhibited, Steinkamp adjusts the projections to fill the height of the gallery’s walls, the images interacting with the architecture and creating tension between the imaginary landscape and the physical space. At Spalding House, Mike Kelly establishes a dialogue between art and nature, between the exhibition and the gardens outside.

Harry Shearer: The Silent Echo Chamber
Saturday Night Live alum and Spinal Tap member Harry Shearer is also a video artist. For his multi-screen installation The Silent Echo Chamber (2008), Shearer chose what he calls “Found Objects”—online video clips that he collects—showing well-known politicians and media personalities captured in the quiet moments before they “go live” in television appearances. What you see are unexpected expressions never intended for prime time.

The work is a “return to what television is supposed to be,” Shearer said in an interview with PBS. He believes television, with its focus too often on sitting and talking, lacks the visual vitality it once had. For him, this project is “an opportunity to get back to the idea of just watching. I’m trying to give people as little surrounding content as possible, as little interpretation as possible.” Shearer insists that viewers are welcome to “make up their own story” about what they are seeing.

One of America’s most prominent satirists, Shearer achieved stardom as Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap, and voices a variety of characters (Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders and others) on The Simpsons. His extensive acting credits run the gamut from A Mighty Wind to The Right Stuff. Since the 1990s, Shearer has also exhibited video installation projects at many prominent museums. Exhibited courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery, New York.

Through the Fire, From Dirt to Dazzle: Ceramic Works from the Drewliner/Higa Gifts
Since 2004, Hawai‘i artists and collectors Peter Drewliner and Charles Higa have been donating works of art and acquisition funds to expand and enhance the museum’s strong collection of contemporary ceramics. Gifts from their collection and other acquisitions that they have made possible, most of which are being exhibited for the first time since they were accessioned by the museum, span the history of contemporary ceramics.

On view are major examples by masters of the mid-century American Studio Pottery movement such as Beatrice Wood, Edwin and Mary Scheier, Karen Karnes, Rose Cabat, Robert Turner, Ruth Duckworth, and Maija Grotell, who was the teacher and mentor of Toshiko Takaezu—also included in the exhibition. More recent works are by Adrian Saxe, Ken Ferguson, John Pagliaro, Virgil Ortiz, and Dorothy Feibleman.

Drewliner/Higa support has also bolstered the representation of foreign artists in the ceramics collection, including works by Rupert Spira and Gabrielle Koch (both England), Gustavo Perez (Mexico), Steve Heinemann and Paul Mathieu (both Canada), Yo Akiyama (Japan), and Renee Reichenbach (Germany).

While the majority of works are based in the vessel tradition (however, these definitely aren’t your grandmother’s china!), several are sculptural in nature, such as those by Robert Hudson, Hawai‘i’s own Esther Shimazu, and Beverly Mayeri. Mayeri’s The Toddler is on view in the new installation Anxiety’s Edge, in the Clare Boothe Luce Gallery (27).

Escape from the Vault: A Few Great Paintings and Sculptures
The museum breaks out the cream of the contemporary collection—a selection of the most important paintings and sculptures that have not been on view for years (and in one case, has never been on view until now).

Among the works are Minimalist masterpieces such as a Cor-Ten steel and Plexiglas “stack” by Donald Judd; a large untitled gestural work by Robert Motherwell from his Beside the Sea body of works, a quintessential example of Abstract Expressionist art; and two canvases by Sam Francis that illustrate two periods of his work, Black and Red (1950-53) from his so-called “cell” paintings and an untitled work (1968) from his Edge Series.

Finger: A Mural by Ken Fandell
Known for his video and photographic works, Chicago artist Ken Fandell often creates images that he digitally combines and manipulates to produce large-scale framed works or gigantic murals—his most spectacular installation to date is a pair of murals of cloud-filled skies, Days and Nights, Dawns and Dusks, North and South, East and West, Mine and Yours (2008), at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Fandell often addresses the idea of the epic vs. the banal in his work. One of his most recent works, Finger, makes its public debut at Spalding House. Fandell made a digital collage from 111 pictures of his finger at different angles and bends, looping around and around in a maze-like composition.

For Fandell a finger can symbolize something accusatory or blaming in relationship to others. Fandell writes, “It's about pointing, blaming, defining, identifying, assigning, directing, convoluted ways we get to destinations (both emotional and physical), touching, and cussing. Equal part inspirations from God’s and Adam's fingers on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the animations of Terry Gilliam. The finger is continuous and there is only one ending point, but it's extremely hard to follow exactly where and what it's pointing to, and how it got there.”

More contemporary art at the Honolulu Academy of Arts
As part of the merger of TCM/Spalding House with the Honolulu Academy of Arts, more contemporary art is now also on view at the Academy.

Also opened Oct. 20 is Gaye Chan: Frass, an installation by the Hawai‘i artist Gaye Chan. Made of worm-eaten pages of a book of Japanese woodblock prints superimposed with aerial views of the U.S.-Mexico border, Frass reflects on how economic alliances promote free trade, even as they rely on national borders to criminalize the movement of people.

And on long-term view in the Academy’s new contemporary gallery is Anxiety’s Edge. The exhibition of works from the combined collection by leading contemporary artists such as Kara Walker and Gregory Crewdson explores complex ideas and concerns about current social, political, economic, psychological and moral issues.

Today's News

October 31, 2011

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