4 x 4 Inch Worlds

Jun 15, 2018

Hiroko Sakurai. Hako Niwa. Mixed media in 4" x 4" tin box. In the Art InTime exhibition at the Hawaii State Art Museum Shop x Mori by Art and Flea, 55 tin boxes are the point of departure through June 30, 2018. The 2018 Young Artists of Hawaii exhibit continues in the Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM) galleries.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Sometimes limitation can unlock the imagination, and that seems to be happening as you peer into a show of 55 tiny boxes at the Hawai’i State Art Museum Gallery Shop.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports, two local curators have challenged artists to create worlds inside four by four inch boxes.

(foreground) Thad Higa. S.S.R. with other works in the Art InTime exhibit.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

The exhibition, Art InTime, is on display now through June 30th at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum Gallery Shop x Mori by Art + Flea, on the ground floor under the Hawai‘i State Art Museum.  The shop is independently operated from HiSAM, which only exhibits works from the Hawai‘i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts’ Art in Public Places Collection or through collaborations with the Department of Education, such as the 2018 Young Artists of Hawai‘i exhibit, currently on display.  

Find Hawai'i's fine artists in the upstairs galleries.  Currently, in Artizen Cafe next to the shop, Jesse Christensen is showing "mysterious ancient artifacts" made of wood and computer parts.

Lisa Shiroma is the Manager for the Hawai‘i State Art Museum Gallery Shop x Mori by Art + Flea, on the ground floor under the Hawai‘i State Art Museum.

Shiroma:  You can touch everything in this show. If you want, you can open this.  It’s a box that will sing to you! 

She's talking about Andrew Binkley's shiny, scruffy screamer in a tin box, titled, "?????".  There are 55 neat tin boxes in this show, 4 by 4 inches each.  It was an overstock problem, actually, for the curator of the show, Keiko Hatano.

(l) Ryo Suzuki. Let It Flow. (r) Michelle Schwengel-Regala. Antarctic Ice Cube: Black Flag.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Shiroma:  Keiko had ordered these boxes to package her skincare products but I guess they weren’t the right size, so she was stuck with all these boxes. 

Hatano:  I love tin cans and I was thinking should I return it or should I keep it?  It’s kind of taking over my storage  then I thought about maybe doing small art in a can.  Then I thought I wanted to do something as a donation to the Honolulu Museum.  That’s how it came about.

Portions of proceeds go to a contemporary art acquisition fund at the Honolulu Museum of Art in memory of curator, Jay Jensen.  Hatano partnered with curator K.J. Baysa, who recruited 23 off island artists with Hawai’i connections.  

A sign of Baysa’s influence, the title of the show, Art InTime, is a reference to French precedents.  From 1935 into the 1960’s, Marcel Duchamp produced a famous series of “boite en valises,” boxes containing reproductions of his work.  These diminutive compilations allowed an intimate experience with Duchamp’s work.  “Intime” is French for intimate, and seems fitting for the works in Art InTime.

Small was not immediately inspiring to all.  Maile Yawata partnered with Lauren Trangmar to ink her tires and run over her box.  She then produced an adorable flip book chronicling the antagonistic episode.

Nanci Amaka. The door.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Masami Teraoka’s box has a pencil drawing of two familiar figures inside, the geisha and the Pope are having a culinary discussion.  Kabuki style calligraphy is scratched silver into the russet painted box.

Shiroma:  That’s a dialog about ramen slurping in New York.  This is the most expensive one, it’s $3500.

Prices for this show are approachable, starting at $43.30.  That would be Thad Higa’s S.S.R., a complicated paper fold out that makes you ask, who is this??  Rio Suzuki’s Let It Flow, exhibits eloquent use of dryer lint, Lang Stephen U, aka Syrup’s lentils are truly charming, and Michelle Schwengel-Regala’s knit Antarctic Ice Cube is one of her best pieces yet.

An artist herself, Hatano realizes some artists rebelled against the small format.

Hatano:  I think they love it, but they hate it.  To me it’s like love and hate.

For viewers, the tiny tin boxes are each a world.

(foreground) Lisa Shiroma. 9 to go. (center) Yoko Haar. This is not a drill. (right) Mary Mitsuda. Aloha e Aloha oe.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Hatano:  If you’re so stressed out, you want to go in your woman cave or something, you can open a little can secretly and escape.

Hiroko Sakurai’s box opens onto a hakoniwa, or Japanese miniature garden, depicting a pebbled landscape below a sliver of moon---a white dog quietly lifts a leg in one corner.

Zooming in, your feet crunch on pebbles, the moon hangs steady another night; it could make you think of the Tolstoy quote: All great things are happening in slow and inconspicuous ways.”

Masami Teraoka. 2 Ave. Ramen Stop Series/Pope Francis and Geisha Momotaro.
Credit Noe Tanigawa