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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, November 21, 2004

Pohl gallery honors artist's life, work

By David C. Farmer
Special to The Advertiser

After several years operating the Smith Street Gallery, Sandy Pohl has opened the Louis Pohl Gallery in the historic 1888 property that formerly housed the famous Honolulu landmark Bill Lederer's Bar, a police substation, and most recently, another gallery.

Bruce Behnke's "Black Taro," archival photographic print

Photos from Louis Pohl Gallery

The late Dave Donnelly somewhat jokingly referred to the area as the SoHo of Honolulu, or perhaps more accurately NoHo, because it lies mostly north of Hotel Street.

Upon the opening of the prior gallery in 2000, he noted that old-timers might remember the joke that there were nearly as many police in the place once it became the substation as when it was a saloon.

The gallery is part of the exciting renaissance of arts and culture that continues apace in Honolulu's downtown and Chinatown districts, which have lately seen a growing number of new exhibition spaces, such as the Bethel Street Gallery (formerly Atelier 4) at 1140 Bethel St., and f/22 Gallery, at 22 Pauahi St.

Designed as a living testament to Pohl's life and work, the gallery, which opened in August, has embarked on a unique artist-in-residence program, in which three artists work collaboratively not only to show their respective works, but also participate in the business of running a gallery.

Gallyn, "Striding Forward," watercolor. The works are part of an exhibit at the Louis Pohl Gallery.
Chosen for these first residencies are photographer Bruce Behnke, multimedia artist Gallyn and Frances Hill, a water-based-media artist.

The gallery's artist-in-residence program offers participants the opportunity to show their works for an extended period.

The artists collaborate on projects, experiment, and demonstrate the value of sharing their knowledge and experiences for the benefit of each other and the community.

Behnke's solo show demonstrates his unique style across four genres of photography: landscape, seascape, botanical and macro/abstract.

All of his archival-quality digital images were made in accordance with the North American Nature Photography Association's "Statement of Ethical Field Practices."

The Hawai'i environment is his major subject, including such eye candy as Maui's Hana coast, various reserves on Moloka'i, the Big Island's Hamakua coast, O'ahu's Ka'ena Point and Waimea Valley, and the Ko'olau Mountains.

'Ao': photographs of light, earth, water and color by Bruce Behnke

Louis Pohl Gallery

1111 Nu'uanu Ave.



Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Through Saturday

Behnke uses only natural light and explores the play of light inherent in the juxtaposition of natural elements.

Natural light, especially the light of early morning or late afternoon, provides him with a gentle and subtle balance of color, interesting shadows and unique angles of illumination.

He especially likes to capture things like the solitary ray in a forest illuminating a single plant, the setting or rising sun backlighting waves or leaves, and reflected and refracted light.

Patience and persistence are demanded of a photographer who chooses to use only natural light. Behnke must often return to a spot many times before capturing exactly what he previsualizes.

Natural light can also present serious photographic challenges related to depth of field, contrast and loss of sharpness because of natural motion.

Even in his botanical and macro/abstract work, he works outside a studio in the plein aire, preferring the ambience only nature can provide.

Most of his images, except for the landscapes, focus on a single element in a natural setting. Behnke's goal is to create in the viewer a heightened attention that will facilitate and promote a more attentive attitude to what surrounds us.

Behnke's often-arresting images manage to do just that: to let us see the familiar in new and unexpected ways.

In addition to the "Ao" exhibition, Behnke previews 15 images from a photographic portfolio of new work, "Street Markets of China."

The series depicts the diversity, unique beauty and the almost otherworldliness of the people's markets of Shandong province, where he worked for several months this year.

Next life phase

Gallyn has most recently focused on printmaking, watercolor and ceramics, with her recent prints in dry point and engraving on display in a smaller section of the gallery.

A longtime resident of Kane'ohe, she graduated from Castle High School and the University of Hawai'i, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in weaving.

She put on hold her personal creative endeavors to raise three children, while using those same skills to help support her family, by working in aesthetic-related disciplines in the construction industry.

"With the children launched, and that phase of life drifting by, I am now focused on finding and doing the things that I find both delightful and delighting," her statement says.

"I explore many avenues, and find myself ever pushed in the direction of a current fascination, whether it is a new print technique, a fresh paint color, or the whimsy of working with wire. For me, art is an avocation and diversion rather than a persistent compulsion."

2005 retrospective

Color and the human form are frequently the inspiration for Hill's largely abstract works.

Born in London the daughter of a philosopher/physicist and artist and always involved in the arts, Hill pursued a traditional college education and studied at the London arm of the Sorbonne, preparing her for a life in the business of marketing and as a translator.

The move in 1979 from the cosmopolitan and vibrant energy of London to slower-paced Honolulu has had a significant impact on her art.

In 2000, Hill started to paint just to please herself.

She states that her "work is typically bold and colorful and, while abstract in nature, tells a story or leads to a conclusion. I am moved by color as the primary rhythm to my paintings. The context of my work is a tricky combination of extreme boldness of color, large shapes and forms, combined with the subtlety and sensitivity of transparent watercolor and the proud texture of collage.

"When not working in abstract, I use figures as central characters in my art, and I am continually working to further develop this genre as a primary thread for future series."

Planned to coincide on what would have been Pohl's 90th birthday in September 2005 is a comprehensive retrospective exhibition of Pohl's work that will bring together not only the works themselves but also the many students and fellow artists whose lives Pohl touched so profoundly and deeply.

The Louis Pohl Gallery, with its inviting historical ambience and lovely location next to a charming park, the Hawai'i Theatre and Indigo restaurant, is a welcome addition to Honolulu's blooming cultural landscape.

David C. Farmer holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing, and a master's in Asian and Pacific art history, from the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.