Hawaii's Public Art
On the Hunt: See the city with fresh eyes via this article, an artistic scavenger hunt of Honolulu’s best public art.
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Jean Charlot, 1970-1975
Ceramic tile mural
United Public Workers Building, 1426 School St.
On a main Kalihi thoroughfare, Jean Charlot’s six large panels show Hawaii hard at work. From musicians and dancers to carpenters and janitors, the figures take shape in his characteristically blocky style, full of life and color.
Charlot lived and worked in Mexico for many years, participating in the muralism movement that infused art with social conscience and politics. He carried that sensibility through his many Hawaii works after moving here in 1949
6. "Na Lehua Helelei" (The Scatterred Lehua Blossoms)
Rocky Jensen, 1999
Fort DeRussy, fronting the U.S. Army Museum
Five imposing kii stand at Kalia, the gateway to Waikiki, where the greenery of the Hale Koa grounds counter the high-rise hotels. Kamehameha stepped ashore here in his push to conquer Oahu and later presented the land to High Chief Kalanimoku for his aid in the crucial Battle of Nuuanu.
It’s a fitting spot for Jensen’s images of Kunuiakea (Ku), each kii representing a different aspect of the Hawaiian god. The title connects red flower blossoms to the blood of fallen warriors. Jensen carved the figures over a period of four years and also designed the semicircular setting with its pathway of smoothed stones. The effect combines imposing power and sacred reverence.
7. “L’Enfant et les Sortiléges” (The Bewitched Child)
David Hockney, 1983
Acrylic on canvas and wood, carpeting, velour, wool, laminated foam board and colored light
The Contemporary Museum
Step into the Cades Pavilion amid the gardens at The Contemporary Museum and you’re surrounded by bluish light, magical trees that form a forest with organic floating shapes and black figures. The air sighs with the music of Ravel’s 1925 opera L’Enfant et les Sortiléges. The museum’s installation piece was originally David Hockney’s stage set for the opera. In 1986, The Contemporary Museum acquired L’Enfant, outbidding several other museums for this piece from an important contemporary artist.