Sept. 11 inspires an outpouring of emotional Hawai'i works
By Virginia Wageman
Advertiser Art Critic
A great deal of irreplaceable art was destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, including pieces by Mir, Nevelson, Lichtenstein and Calder. A memorial by Elyn Zimmerman to the victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing also was destroyed.
New memorials will arise, not only to the twin towers victims but also to those who were killed in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Meanwhile, each of us tries in our own small way to cope with those horrible events.
One way to cope is through art. Yet for many artists, the mere thought of returning to the studio after the attacks seemed impossible or irreverent. Slowly, however, though irrevocably saddened, our worlds forever changed, we have all picked up the pieces and moved on.
A quickly assembled show at the Koa Gallery documents Hawai'i artists' responses to the attacks. A call for works related to Sept. 11 was issued in November, with artists eligible to enter up to two pieces. Jurors were Georgianna Lagoria, director of the Contemporary Museum, and Greg Northrup, owner of Fine Art Associates.
With 140 works by 110 artists, this rambling exhibition is almost too much to absorb in one visit. It proved too much for the Koa Gallery space as well, so it continued in KCC's Lama Library, where more than half of the show is displayed.
Artists' responses to the terrorist attacks range from the tortured expressions of Masami Teraoka to Linny Morris Cunningham's gorgeous photographs of the World Trade Center, which she made in 1978 and recently unearthed, and George Woollard's elegiac "Flight of the Souls," celebrating the thousands who lost their lives in the attacks.
There is very little of what might be termed "patriotic art," and what flags there are are more attuned to Jasper Johns than to Norman Rockwell. Minimalist works seem the strongest memorials, among them Patricia Yu's two large panels, "White Pocket Money to Heaven," with white linen pockets handsewn onto burlap backing. A label suggests that people insert coins into the pockets; the money will be donated to the Red Cross, just as at a funeral money in small white envelopes is given to relatives of the deceased.
Other dramatically evocative minimalist pieces are Yoko Haar's "Silence I" and "Silence II," two elegant gray tiles that might have been created out of the rubble of the twin towers, and Tae Kitata's plexi tower planter that holds a mini field of green grass with a single flower emerging from it (the flower drooping several days after the opening). Hal Lum's "Remember," a drawing with a simple gridlike pattern of two stylized towers, is striking.
Several artists recorded the moment of impact. Timothy Ojile's "Moment(um)" is an abstract painting on paper with wonderfully constrained coloration of brown and yellow. David Behlke, in "The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light," suggests a wild explosion of color, dominated by red, yellow and blue.
It would have been interesting to have labels with comments from the artists about their works or about their feelings of Sept. 11.
Jodi Endicott, whose works generally are on the lighter side, wrote to me that it was hard for her to start working after Sept. 11. "I couldn't work for about a week," she said. "Then images started to appear in my mind ... of the tower, the families and the impending war." She pulled out some bronze pieces that she had made 10 years ago, in response to the Persian Gulf War, and reworked these into the two grim sculptures that are in the show.
Brendt Berger responded to the sense of disorientation felt by his New York friends by exhibiting a color postcard of the Waikiki skyline and titling it "Lost Bearings." He wonders, he says, if some of our obvious bearing markers were to disappear, if we feel the same kind of disorientation.
Tom Haar, whose two photographs "Hanauma Bay 1" and "Hanauma Bay 2" document debris from the new construction at marine life preserve, said "the disarray of overturned manmade rocks ... reminded me of the remnants of the physical destruction of the twin towers and the many souls who perished that fateful morning."
Sometimes a quickly organized show has a lot of pieces that have been thrown together to meet an entry deadline, but that is not the case here. The exhibit is thoughtfully conceived and well executed.
In addition to those already mentioned, memorable pieces are exhibited by Mandell Andres, Patricia Boyle, Patricia Carelli ("Postcard from Windows on the World," pictured), Kau'i Chun and Sonia Rivas, Lucille Cooper, and Dorothy Faison, among others.
It's difficult to park at Kapi'olani Community College, but parking is free on Saturdays, when the gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the library is open until 1 p.m. Otherwise, call the gallery for parking suggestions.
Also related to America's war on terrorism, the videos shown at the Contemporary Museum at the end of last year are making a comeback. Titled as a group "The Human Family," their intent is to heighten awareness of the Muslim world, particularly Afghanistan.
The selection of videotapes, being screened until Mar. 24, includes some from the earlier program as well as additions that address evolving events in the region. The tapes focus not so much on the war as on day-to-day life in the Muslim world so that we might better understand the people who live there.
Reach Virginia Wageman at VWageman@aol.com.