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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 27, 2002

Artist branches out into two- and three-dimensional works

By Victoria Gail-White
Advertiser Art Reviewer

 •  'Recent Experiments'

Hiroki Morinoue

Through Nov. 16

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

10 a.m. to 2 pm Saturdays

Kapi'olani Community College

Koa Gallery


When Kealakekua-born Hiroki Morinoue says he is trying to "broaden his vocabulary," you can depend on him to do his homework.

Recent Experiments," his latest exhibit at the Koa Gallery, is all about experimenting with dialogues of color, symbols, patterns, materials and space. Got Morinoue? If not, you may be able to identify (interpret?) aspects of his poetic visual language after a brief visit to the gallery.

Pictographic conversations of swirls and furniture; infinity and dollar signs; national park, warning and scientific symbols; religious and spiritual icons — all speak of the mystic doctrines represented by his linear drawings and carvings. Many of these symbols have been with us since childhood, linked in our consciousness with reading and the meaning of words.

In my recent phone conversation with Morinoue (enjoying autumn in New York City while visiting his daughters, who are dancers there), he said, "This is the first body of work that incorporates two- and three-dimensional work. It is minimal with straight patterns. For eighteen years I have used three primary colors. I have a grasp and an understanding of color. I love color and wanted to incorporate more of it, but this series was more monochromatic."

Morinoue is prolific but tough on himself. He finished 40 pieces for the show but selected only 16 for the exhibit.

With an international reputation as a printmaker and painter, he integrates his talents as a sculptor into this exhibit. Like scrapbooks of ideas, the 24-inch-square recycled plywood frames have a front surface of thin plywood that could be carved, burned, painted with drywall compound to which colors or acrylic medium have been added, and then drawn on while wet. Inside the outer frame is another frame — cut out, recessed and painted in darker colors where small white clay forms articulate the symbolic imagery inscribed on the outer frame surface. They register as simplified shrines, albeit for complicated ideas.

In "Gold," a seated, bronze-colored silhouette of the Buddha surrounded by a warm gold painted light contains the graphic symbol for gold made into a three-dimensional shape suspended in the heart area. Points of radiating light, like fireflies, randomly punctuate the pictograms. "Giving Tree" reveals both a white clay-enshrined branch and painted branch patterns with a carved-out open door, chair, bowl and table.

The repetitious rhythm of images layers Morinoue's visual language. The transitional space between the elements of his work reveal a pause similar to the silence that emerges in a conversation and renders words superfluous.

The tactile quality of the textile-like, elegant "Infinite Tide" and "Ocean Rain" (two of the three 24-by-48-inch works) communicate the expanse of Morinoue's sense of aesthetic wisdom and balance. "I made the clay pieces first, then created the dialogue around the form," he said. All the pieces in the show are maquettes (scale models) for the full-sized 4-by-4-foot original versions.

His presence in the art world in Hawai'i these past three decades began with the encouragement and financial support of the late Bob and Carol Rogers at the Kona Art Center. Morinoue, whose studio is in Holualoa on the Big Island, has reciprocated by founding The Holualoa Foundation for Arts and Culture in Kona to support other emerging artists. In the newly renovated former coffee mill, the foundation networks with art centers on O'ahu and Maui and offers workshops and intensive art courses for children.

• • •

 •  'Burnt Offerings' Ceramic Invitational

Through Nov. 26

1132 Bishop St.

Exhibition Area (second-floor lobby)

Open during business hours, closed Sundays


What goes around comes around: artists, symbols, ideas, support, enthusiasm and inspiration.

Soil speaks. Caressed by a potter's hands, its voice is refined from dirt to memorable forms lifted from the bellies of kilns and able to survive hundreds of lifetimes. "Burnt Offerings," curated by David Belke, director of the Koa Gallery, delivers an outstanding range of styles, shapes, glaze colors and concepts from the eight invited artists — John Bade, Janice Brown, Kauka de Silva, Ken Kang, Karen Lucas, Bob McWilliams, Yukio Ozaki and Johanette Rowley.

Rowley's exceptional new porcelain clay works have transcended her preoccupation with the dark side of mortality. "I am attracted to the duality of light and dark in us," she says. "In this new work, there is a light, spiritual quality, a rebirth, a letting go." From "Breaking Free" to "Surrender," there is a joyous expression of emotion. Her signature style, keeping the porcelain white except for the red lips, and "aging" it with a darker glaze, gives her sculpted figures a Butoh-like appearance. The ethereal "Angel," with a lace-like texture, has a lightweight clay body. Rowley continues to address social issues in the ragged and patched "Kimono" and the nailed "Baby Face."

"I love clay. I am a tactile person," she says. "I can work all day and not feel the passage of time."

Ozaki's "Mineral Form" is a sizeable masterpiece of clay colors and layered clay. A deep blue, geode-like interior is covered in protrusions of earth-red, taupe, blue and gray clays. "Lagoon" is a large turquoise-glazed stoneware sculpture that would appear to its best advantage in a beautiful watery outdoor garden, while "Mossy Creature" would blend into a more forest-like setting.

With a touch of slapstick added to one of his well-designed, functional teapots, Bob McWilliams' "The House Missed Her But The Teapot Got Her" is a welcome treat. But his more serious "Black Teapot" is exceptional. The rich, dark glaze, flowing handle and thin spout will make the art of serving tea into the art of serving tea from a work of art.

The enormous scale of Karen Lucas' work creates a perfect counterbalance to the smaller works in the show. Three of the pieces ("Moon Watcher," "DayDreamer" and "Listen") were featured in her show at the Koa Gallery in April and maintain their strong presence. "Fish Lips" is a smaller, delightful stoneware sculpture that features a fish with human lips and tongue, and a hand for a back fin.

Ken Kang's work is just plain beautiful. "Untitled II" and "Untitled III" are white crackled-glazed and raku-fired vessels topped with bamboo twigs thoughtfully placed on Chinese red, wood-lacquered lids. The result is refreshing and striking. He has also placed some of the vessels on top of matted and lacquered wooden boxes with surrounding black rock gardens. They are the quintessentially Zen.

Trained in the mingei (folk-craft) movement in Japan, Kauka de Silva was taught that wherever you are, your pieces should speak from that place. His do. "I use lauhala ash and lava rock for my glazes in a 10-to-one ratio, and then layer them to get variety," he says. He has been a potter for 30 years and a teacher at Kapi'olani Community College for 15. Known for his earthy-colored clay works, in this body of work he has used tapa cloth stamps and calabash shapes from the reign of King Kamehameha I, as in "Ipu Pueo."

"The vessels in this show were larger and more challenging," he says. "Good work has a pulse, you can feel it."

The GMO series of porcelain pears made by Janice Brown are an environmental statement with a touch of whimsy. Zebra, leopard and tiger-patterned pears with underglaze and oxides attest to the interference of science in our food chain. Her "Doodles" vase, as well as the graphic BAW (black and white) pear series, are lusciously crisp.

In a take-off from his more nostalgic caricature pottery, John Bade has included a series of fine porcelain crystalline glazed vases and paperweights.

The video of Toshiko Takaezu that plays continuously is also not to be missed.