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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 24, 2002

Galleries feature distinct styles, from quirky to sublime

By Victoria Gail-White
Special to The Advertiser

Two very different galleries, worlds apart yet fairly close in distance, have opened right next door to reasonably priced restaurants; they might be just what is needed for a break in your routine.


Above: "Doo honey doo bop," a drawing by Ryan Higa, uses cartoon-like characters to examine relationship dynamics.

Below: "Dangling Participle3" by Higa. Both are on display at workspace.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

A tangerine orange sign on Wai'alae Avenue in Kaimuki reads "workspace." It hangs next door to Saigon Vietnamese restaurant. Up a clean flight of rubberized stairs a tangerine door allowed entry to a front room filled with an unusual collection of small-scale soft sculptures, T-shirts, trinkets, books and funky souvenirs.

In the next room, the 250-square-foot gallery space is exhibiting its grand-opening show, "i love workspace." This quirky world of light boxes, soft sculptures, photographs and "naughty" drawings bursts at the seams with the unexpected. The five members of workspace "are committed to their artistic practice and the shameless self-promotion that such an endeavor demands," their press release says.

Five belong to the humorous hui that owns and operates the gallery: Ryan Higa, Kris Higa, Duncan Dempster, Ari Eichelberger and Cade Roster. Young, curious and talented artists, Dempster and the Higas met while studying art at the University of Hawai'i. Ryan Higa and Dempster are on the board of directors of the Honolulu Printmakers (where Higa will be demonstrating Japanese-style woodblock printing with water-based pigment at 1 p.m. today at the Academy Arts Center). Dempster is a teacher at the University of Hawai'i.

Ryan Higa says he is inspired by the "sticky weirdness and uncomfortableness" in the "relationship dance." His blue-background drawings, "tangle tango" and "doo honey doo bop," reveal his cartoon-like characters in various stages of interacting. His pink-background series, "dangling participle," is the beginning of a larger narrative in progress and feature androgynous, zipped-up bodies, nude except for their boots.

Soft sculpture is the chosen medium of both Ari Eichelberger and Kris Higa. Higa has a cushiony collection of amicable "world invaders," and Eichelberger's brightly colored friends include "leon, samone, mavis and edgar."


3624 Wai'alae Ave., Suite 201

Open: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturdays


Note: Saigon Cafe, next door, is open 10:30 a.m.- 9 p.m. daily

Toko Kain Gallery

Kilohana Square, 2851-2 Kihei Place

Open: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays


Note: India Cafe, next door, is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays

Duncan Dempster's light boxes illuminate figures in action scenes such as, "the fall" and "escapist." He applies a vinyl medium to the surface glass to intensify the color saturation. Be sure not to miss the one hung over the doorway.

Cade Roster photographs the wooden puppets that he builds and sets in lush settings in "simple syrup" and "slip up."

Nothing in the exhibit costs more than $300. Besides being affordable, this is a gallery to watch for art on the edge.

The hui has plans to curate the work of other artists. In the meantime, Cade Roster will open a solo show 6-9 p.m. April 4 that will include an autograph session with special guest artists who are making spontaneous drawings. I asked Higa if this meant a psychic sort of personalized drawing thing, and he said, "No, nothing that metaphysical."

Their announcement reads, "We are friendly people." They are.

Toko Kain

Going from the bizarre to the sublime, try lunch at the India Cafe and take a few steps next door into the fairly new Toko Kain gallery in Kilohana Square off Kapahulu Avenue. "Toko Kain" loosely means "fabric shop," and the gallery is stuffed with interesting textiles, baskets, masks and other items from Indonesia, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand.

Peter Raub’s painting, on display at Toko Kein in Kapahulu.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The recent contemporary brush-painting exhibit, "Group of Four," features the works of four students and their teacher, Yu Wen, originally from Taiwan. All are members of The Precious Ink Chamber Association, grinding their own ink and painting on Chinese rag paper. This exhibit displays their dedication to the Xieyi and Suiboku traditions of Chinese and Japanese styles of brush-painting.

Wen teaches classes at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. Her work is classical, as the three hanging panels (grapes; bamboo, banana and sparrow; red bird and wisteria vine) illustrate. The contrast of wet and dry brush strokes and her sparing use of color give her work a lyrical quality.

Micky Tengan's paintings show a lighter, more humorous side. Her three mice eating two apples, cat and peony, and fish on plate reveal a flowing, easy style gained from many years of study.

Both Genyu Shibano and Hideo Kaneshiro have chosen landscapes and flowers as their subjects. Shibano's landscapes are pensive, while Kaneshiro's chrysanthemums and cherry blossoms are almost bursting off the paper with layered color.

The owner of the shop, Peter Raub, also is a student of Yu Wen. His work is classically mounted on scrolls and is fresh, contemporary and fairly abstract, apart from a particularly exquisite jewel of a composition depicting the dried pods of the Clusia rosea or autograph tree.

By the way, Raub, too, is very friendly.

Victoria Gail-White is an artist, teacher and former gallery owner.