HiSAM Welcomes Visitors Back with “For Walls,” a new COVID-Inspired Art Exhibit
The artwork in Hawai‘i State Art Museum’s latest exhibition transforms something all too familiar into inviting and dynamic pieces of art.
Over the past seven months, between shutdowns, work-from-home orders and quarantining, many of us “have become all too familiar with our own four walls,” says Elizabeth Baxter, curator of the Hawai‘i State Art Museum’s latest exhibit. But that doesn’t mean they have to be oppressive. For Walls features works from the Art in Public Places Collection and highlights sculptures created specifically for walls, “using them both as a support and as a backdrop,” Baxter says, to showcase “unique and dynamic ways artists engage and enliven enclosed spaces.”
The museum reopened earlier this month with coronavirus protections in place. Just walk up to the front desk on the second floor, give your name and number, get your temperature checked and, if it’s normal, you’re good to go. As you enter the Diamond Head wing of the museum you’ll see the exhibits Mai hoʻohuli i ka lima i ka luna and Emphasized: Eye on Scale. Go all the way to the back of the wing and you’ll find the spacious Turnaround Gallery where For Walls is on view.
Like a magical spell, the artwork transforms the walls from a space of confinement to one of wonder and intrigue. Each sculpture is given ample space to breathe. The sculptures invite you to take a closer look and marvel at the details. The labor-intensive process and craftsmanship in each piece are impressive. One can imagine the countless hours it takes to create each sculpture from start to finish, by hand.
Jerry Okimoto’s “Unknown” is like a maze to nowhere. It could easily be a visual representation of someone’s anxious mind feeling trapped and claustrophobic. Bumpei Akaji’s hammered copper sheets have taken a heavy beating, just like us in 2020. There is a haunting beauty in rumination seen in Dean Pulver’s “Black Waterfall,” Jisoo Boggs’ “Gathering 3” and Yoko Haar’s “Erosion #1” and “Erosion #2.” On one wall there are fighting chickens—made of woven organic fibers—locked in a death match. There’s a rhythm and energy in these static sculptures.
For Walls gives us a quiet opportunity to pause and reflect. Seeing an exhibit inspired by the coronavirus is like hearing a sad song that is so good because you can relate to the lyrics. It immediately connects with you and in that instant you realize that others are feeling the same and that you are not alone. The coronavirus pandemic is a collective human experience that we are all part of. We are together in confinement within four walls.
Free admission, open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Hawai‘i State Art Museum, 250 S. Hotel St.