Hawai‘i State Art Museum Top 25 for 2019

Mar 1, 2019

The Hawai'i State Art Museum at the top of Richards Street is open Monday through Saturday, 10am-4pm, free entry, free guided tours. Her, a group of Hokulani Elementary 5th graders meet two massive head sculptures by Jun Kaneko.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Ten local art connoisseurs got together recently to choose 25 Top Picks at the Hawai‘i State Art Museum, or HiSAM.  Their goal is to lure everyone into HiSAM, for fresh perspectives on art in our state.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa asked two of the connoisseurs you probably know, about how they discovered art and what they get out of it.

Senator Brian Taniguchi at his desk at the Hawai'i State Capitol. Behind him, Doug Young's Kaku-Lost T's, Moloka'i. Watercolor triptych from 1982. This painting and the painting opposite the Senator's desk by Isami Doi are both owned by the people of Hawai'i.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

View Top Picks from the Hawai‘i State Art Museum online, and vote for your favorites in the HiSAM collection, too.  Find images and links at hawaiipublicradio.org  .  Tonight First Friday festivities are on at HiSAM and throughout Chinatown.

Taylor Ginez. Eye. Digital art. Grade 12. Moanalua Hich School. One of the pieces in the current 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibition at HiSAM.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Yesterday, the galleries at HiSAM were abuzz with kids, just the way they’re supposed to be.  There’s a show of recent acquisitions up, and the latest Regional Scholastic Art Award winners too.  State Senator Brian Taniguchi has been a champion for the arts, the whole thirty plus years he’s been in in state government, and currently sits on the Senate Labor, Culture, and the Arts committee.  He was one of the art connoisseurs asked to choose his Top 25 from all the State’s art holdings.  It wasn’t easy!

Taniguchi:  I think what I learned was that I liked a lot  more diverse things than I thought I would.  From photorealistic to abstract, you know.

What made you like them?

Taniguchi:  Like the Zuni tribe says with Zuni fetishes.  The fetish will call to you to get it.  It’s like with this Isami Doi, you just get a feel for it, the art kinda speaks to you or talks to you.

Sky Mountain by Isami Doi sits directly across Taniguchi’s desk.

Isami Doi. Sky Mountain. Oil. This painting, done in 1957, hangs across Senator Taniguchi's desk at the State Capitol. Every year, the Senator organizes "Art at the Capitol," an opportunity for the public to see the art in their legislators' offices, and chat about art and issues. All are invited to the "2019 Art at the Capitol" on April 5, 2019 starting at 4:30.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Taniguchi:  This one, when I’m here it calms me down.  I look up, and it calms me down.

But how does that happen?

“Well I’m a local boy, started from the streets, Art was the furthest thing from my mind.”

However, Walter Dods, retired CEO of First Hawaiian Bank and BancWest, says his friend, Wesley Park, was an art lover.

Dods:  So he forced me to go out to Sand Island with him.  And we spent hours with Bumpei Akaji at his little workshop.  Drink Beer and talk story.  Through Wesley I started to gain an appreciation for art.

Dods met John Young through Park, then he met Satoru Abe, Tadashi Sato, and others in the infamous Chateau Metcalf group of early Honolulu modernists.

Former First Hawaiian Bank and BancWest CEO Walter Dods in front of Satoru Abe's "Eternal Garden," in the plaza fronting First Hawaiian Bank at Bishop and King STreets. The bank is home to the Honolulu Museum of Art at FHB Center, open free to the public during banking hours. Free parking in the building.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

Dods:  I got to know them first as human beings, and I liked them and I liked their character.  Many of the artists from that period, got their start with the GI Bill.  The GI Bill had more to do with the modern art in Hawai‘i!  if you go to the HiSAM Top 25, the Akaji’s, the Doi’s,  most of those people got their start with the GI Bill, so in effect Uncle Sam played a big role in art in hawiai by giving them a chance to study,.  Bumpei went to Europe and studied with sculptors in Italy, and Paris, they had some interesting experiences.

Dods’ wife, Diane Dods, was a devoted art supporter.   She and Joan Clarke published Artists/Hawai‘I, a collection of works and profiles of key Hawai‘i Artists.

Dods:  Most local kids were never exposed to art.  So it’s somehow that break, a schoolteacher, a friend, an excursion, something that gives you that chance to see art.  You gotta have that little spark.  That’s why I helped put this gallery together.  You have to make art accessible.

Henry Moore. Upright Motive No. 9. This sculpture, done in 1979, was installed at the makai end of a water feature in Tamarind Park in 1983.
Credit Noe Tanigawa

The Honolulu Museum of Art at First Hawaiian Center has shown hundreds of local artists since 1996.  Dods heads down through the galleries, and out to Satoru Abe’s sculpture, “Eternal Garden” fronting the building on King Street.  Dods stands at the hub of Honolulu’s business district and raises his arms.

Here you have Abe’s organic tree-like forms, and diagonally across the street, Bumpei Akaji’s bronze sails and water.  On the Diamond Head ma uka corner, a Henry Moore figure stands in Tamarind Square, and the huge bronze Bernard Rosenthal disk completes the foursome, fronting Bank of Hawai‘i. 

Dods:  You have two local boys and two international artists at the corner of King and Bishop.  I find that pretty cool.

Who is going to put our local guys toe to toe with the international competition---if we don’t?

Bumpei Akai. Na Manu Nu Oli. This sculpture, made in 1969, sits in a planter on the mauka ewa corner of Bishop and King.
Credit Noe Tanigawa
Bernard Rosenthal. Sun Disc. New York based artist, Rosenthal installed this piece in the plaza fronting Bank of Hawai'i at Bishop and King.
Credit Noe Tanigawa