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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, October 10, 2004

The wide range of Island art

By David C. Farmer
Special to The Advertiser

Three Honolulu exhibitions showcase three very different Hawai'i artists, two with established reputations, one a relative newcomer on the exhibition scene, but with an accomplished body of work. Taken together, they testify to the rich and varied artistic landscape we enjoy here in Hawai'i.

Lucille Cooper, "Celestial Sculpture," raku/mixed media, 2003

Photos by David C Farmer | Special to the Advertiser


Lucille Cooper's love affair with Hawai'i extends over more than 50 years, when she first arrived in the Islands from Los Angeles as a newlywed with her kama'aina husband.

Born in Shanghai in 1923 and raised in Manila, she remembers seeing Gens. Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur on family social occasions.

Cooper spent World War II in California, where she competed in swimming and studied art at UCLA with, among others, a young Ken Kingrey, just starting a distinguished teaching career in design that would culminate in his many years at the UH art department.

With her mother, she started Saxony of California, a ceramic manufacturer that filled the gap created by the shutdown of such famous German ceramic centers as Dresden.

Lucille Cooper: 'E Hawai'i E, Mau Ku'u Aloha No'

Koa Gallery

Kapi'olani Community College 4303 Diamond Head Road

Through Thursday

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

With Hollywood people both working for and buying from the company — retailers like Saks and I. Magnin distributed the wares — it was perhaps inevitable that Cooper would not only meet Esther Williams and Rita Hayworth, but would actually screen-test (unsuccessfully) for Williams.

Upon moving to Honolulu, she studied at the Academy of Arts with Louis Pohl and Willson Stamper, whom she credits as freeing her from her European aesthetic straightjacket.

By the 1950s, she had become immersed in ceramics, which continues to serve as a potent source of inspiration and expression, together with her most recent interest in intuitive paintings.

After a long and distinguished career that has included numerous public and private commissions, and community and artistic service — as one of the founders of the Windward Art Guild, owner of the Hand and Eye Gallery in Kilohana Square, commissioner on the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and, for the past 10 years, an art therapist at the state hospital — Cooper has gathered together key pieces that truly demonstrate her established position in the pantheon of the great artists of Hawai'i.

Through all her work — from the early and recent watercolors, to totemic mixed-media masks and recent jewel-encrusted raku pieces invoking the memory of her Russian mother — Cooper's dramatic flair and energetic sense of craft in the service of her art are unmistakable and inspiring.

Irving Jenkins, "Hawaiian Form," acrylic on wood, 1979

Irving Jenkins is probably best known for his scholarly historical writings in such works as "Hawaiian Furniture and Hawaii's Cabinetmakers: 1820-1940" and "The Hawaiian Calabash."

With a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Hawai'i, Jenkins combines profound knowledge with an assured craft sensibility. This, his first public exhibition of his elegant and poetic mixed-media sculpture, grapples with traditional Hawaiian forms and cultural history to produce modern minimalist works.

Jenkins' starting points are the traditional shapes of Hawaiian feather capes, stone adzes and the niho palaoa, or ivory hook-shaped pendant.

Irving Jenkins: 'Reflections on a Hawaii Heritage'

John Dominis and Patches Damon Holt Gallery

Honolulu Academy of Arts

900 S. Beretania St.

Through Oct. 17

10 a.m. to 4;30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

$7 general, $4 seniors, military and students

He decorates the fronts and backs of the mostly hand-carved wood and Masonite pieces (he shows one bronze piece wisely acquired for the state art collection) in low relief with modeling paste and wood moldings used in model-making. He then applies stylized letters, suggesting both text and petroglyphs, and zigzag and half-butterfly patterns based on the wood mends used to repair calabashes.

The letters often become more than pattern as they form themselves into meaningful sequences, as in "'Olelo No'eau (Hawaiian Proverbs) Series No. 1," in which the words of a famous 19th-century lament are incorporated in the piece to illuminate the realities of the present day.

The surfaces are finished with gesso and layers of brushed and rubbed acrylic paint in light to middle to dark greys, blood reds and dark browns.

Effectively displayed in linen-lined shadow boxes as well as free-standing, the pieces represent more than 20 years of artistic production. Jenkins' haunting works merit serious consideration.

Harry Tsuchidana, "Weeded Out," oil, 1966

Harry Tsuchidana's self-titled exhibition invokes the zodiac signs of Gemini and Monkey and his family's Japanese home prefecture Kumamoto Ken, together indicative of traits that define his playful personality and inventive work.

The Monkey is the sign of the inventor, the improviser and the motivator in the Chinese zodiac. He is a trickster and charlatan, capable of drawing everyone to him with his guile and charm. Being the quick-witted genius of the cycle, the Monkey is said to be clever, flexible and innovative. He is immensely sociable and can get on the good side of everyone. He has the rare gift of making you like him, even after he has tricked you.

Gemini people are said to be dual-natured, elusive, complex and contradictory, versatile but two-faced. Life is a game that must always be full of fresh moves and continuous entertainment, free of labor and routine. Like children, Geminis demand attention, admiration, time, energy and money.

"All three (Gemini, Monkey, and Kumamoto Ken) are quite playful," Tsuchidana is quoted as saying, "and also nobody else can have a title like that for their exhibition."

Harry Tsuchidana: 'Gemini, Monkey, Kumamoto Ken'

Community and Historical Gallery

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i

2454 S. Beretania St.

Through Oct. 22

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturday

Free admission

Harry Tsuchidana: 'Recent Figure Paintings'

Satoru Abe Gallery

888 N. King St.,

Suite 3

Through Oct. 22

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturday

Admittedly a typical Gemini/Monkey, he was not afraid to express his sense of self as a young artist. In the seventh grade, as the story goes, his teacher, Mrs. Wong, challenged his painting of a red tree, saying "That's not a tree." He reportedly replied, "That's my tree."

The exhibition, featuring some of Tsuchidana's most recent paintings — together with his recent figure paintings at the Satoru Abe Gallery and works on view in the "Inner Scapes" exhibition at the State Art Museum — offers a comprehensive look at one of Hawai'i's authentic living masters.

After serving a stint in the army in Japan, he took classes at the Honolulu Academy of Arts and the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. In 1956, he moved to New York, where he met fellow Hawai'i artists Satoru Abe, Jerry Okimoto, Bob Ochikubo, Isami Doi and Tadashi Sato, all of whom were profoundly influenced by the emerging abstract expressionist school.

Since 1955, his work has been widely shown in galleries and exhibitions locally and on the Mainland. The Japanese Cultural Center exhibit is his first solo exhibition in 15 years.

Included here are works from his earliest period in the early 1950s, several pieces from his abstract "Stage" series, on which he has worked since 1979 until now, and wonderful recent figure studies, some quite naughty but all extremely skillful.

What all his work shares in common is a deft, painterly love of texture and impasto, an unerring grasp of subtle color manipulation, and an exquisite and delicate sense of linear design.

His bold and seemingly effortless acrylic, ink, pencil and wash nude figure paintings are reminiscent of the best of the erotic works produced during the last decades of Picasso's life. They reveal the profound, persistent and remarkably varied role that erotic imagery, ideas and experiences can play in the work of a gifted painter like Tsuchidana.

David C. Farmer holds a bachelor's degree in fine arts in painting and drawing and a master's degree in Asian and Pacific art history from the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.