Primordial or Post-Apocalyptic? Art at First Hawaiian Center

Sep 26, 2017

Emily DuBois. Warps and Wefts. Woven fabric. This is one of the works in the show, Abstractions in Paint, Wood, and Fiber. This show, along with paintings by James Kuroda and selections from Hawai‘i Craftsmen will be on view through October 20th 2017 at the Honolulu Museum of Art at First Hawaiian Center.
Credit noe tanigawa

Sometimes a few moments of quiet contemplation can really boost productivity.  That’s what the Honolulu Museum at First Hawaiian Center is for.  Right now, three exhibitions there at the corner of King and Bishop, offer some of Hawai‘i’s finest artists in new combinations.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa attended the opening of Abstractions in Paint, Wood, and Fiber.

Emily DuBois. Kahawai (detail). Tapa, sumi ink, acrylic paint. 2017
Credit noe tanigawa

Abstractions in Paint, Wood, and Fiber continues through October 20th 2017 at the Honolulu Museum of Art at First Hawaiian Center.   Artworks are inside the bank, on the corner of King and Bishop.  One hour free parking in the building, enter on Merchant Street.

Recently, three exhibits opened simultaneously in the First Hawaiian Center.  Find lively paintings by James Kuroda on the lobby level.  Up the stairway in the second floor lobby, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Hawai‘i Craftsmen, you’ll find impressive sculpture and ceramics by some of Hawai‘i’s finest artists.

Keep going, and you’ll come to the corridor gallery and the show, Abstractions in Paint, Wood, and Fiber: Works by Pratisha Budhiraja, Emily DuBois, and Rio Suzuki.  Katherine Love, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Honolulu Museum of Art,  organized all three shows.

Pratisha Budhiraja. Anthropocene 579. Etching, woodblock. paint, ink on Chinese paper. 2016.
Credit noe tanigawa

Love:  Pratisha is a printmaker but also works with mixed media.  She has some etchings on wood panels in the exhibition, also pieces on free hanging paper, and also a three dimensional piece.  Her background is in science.  She studied and worked a as a biologist, and she’s got an amazing knowledge of all things scientific which she integrates into her artwork in a really unique, interesting lyric fashion.

Budhiraja:  This piece in particular, these are part of my Anthropocene series.  Basically, scientists have decided that we are now at a point where humans have made such a huge impact on earth, that we have to change the era we are in.  I started working on these pieces, I have a whole set of logs with DNA code printed on them, and these are all biological drawings.  This is part of a petrie dish and other cellular structures.  The writing is all my biological notes, and some of it is text from textbooks.  So it’s kind of a juxtaposition of the cellular images and human writing and it’s all our impact.

Budhiraja points to a series of rectangles in which black and white globular organic shapes float in distressed looking environments.

Budhiraja:  This is actually human connective tissue. It comes from an electron micrograph of human connective tissue that I then worked on on a plate, so I changed it around a little bit. 

Pratisha Budhiraja. AU 79. Stamping, embossing, paint on wood. 2017.
Credit noe tanigawa

Budhiraja used to do a lot of classical Indian dance, and has incorporated Sanscrit mantras about self-discovery and evolution of self into the images.  Printmakers are stretching images and techniques, and so are fabric artists, like Emily DuBois.  I caught up with DuBois at her studio just outside Pāhoa on Hawai‘i Island.

DuBois:  We’re in the middle of an ‘ōhi‘a  and fern forest.  Just looking at blue sky and white fluffy clouds.  Really, though, my work is woven all over the place because I don’t weave any more myself. 

DuBois:  What I do is the same thing I would do if I wove.  I use my computer, which replaces graph paper, and I have say for example, visited Taiwan, and know the looms and know the weavers.  So I can send them my images that I convert to the technical data for the loom there that’s connected by computer.  So with the internet, here I am in the middle of the forest but I can have my things woven anywhere in the world.

Emily DuBois. elements. woven fabric. 2017.
Credit noe tanigawa

DuBois:  The early programming happened maybe as early as 6th or 7th century in China when draw looms were developed.  Then later, came attachments to the draw looms, which were like little programs, they were woven motifs that could be attached to the loom in such a way that would let the loom weave it out and repeat across the fabric.  Before then, there had to be a draw boy who remembered the pattern, row by row, which warps were up, which warps were down.  Now they had a pattern, they could use it, they could take it off and store it.  So that was in effect, a program. 

DuBois:  Later on, 18th century, Joseph Marie Jacquard comes along and invents the first punch card

Rio Suzuki. Climate I. Acrylic and calcium carbonate on panel. 2017.
Credit noe tanigawa

system and that was for a loom.  Not only weaving but fiber processing machines like spinning, all of those things were one of the major starts of the industrial revolution in Europe.

DuBois:  So the idea of the program carried on from the beginning.  With the technology getting more complex, the fabrics got more complex too, so the two of them developed side by side.  So now, at home, I can use my computer to weave.

Browns, greys, black, a tiger sort of yellow-ochre all appear in DuBois’ work.  Chevrons, houndstooth, greek key, words, graphs, ikat---images/patterns interact with texture when they’re woven.

Rio Suzuki. Atmospheres I. Acrylic and calcium carbonate on panel. 2017
Credit noe tanigawa

DuBois:  Basically in weaving, you’re weaving the canvas and the image at the same time.  The image arises with the canvas, you’re not applying the image to a canvas, so it’s a real combination.  You have to sustain that vision and that sense of inspiration through a whole lot of long, indirect processes, and get past that fascinating technology and history and find a very direct way of expression.  I think weaving is part mental puzzle and part meditation.

Rio Suzuki’s abstractions recall Ross Bleckner in his constellations phase, but are they cosmic vistas or possibly the space inside an atom?  You decide.