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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 12, 2006

New art venue Ong King opens to warm reception

By Joel Tannenbaum
Special to The Advertiser

Zak Opaskar with “Moon, Star, Sea” (India ink on surfboard), a collaboration with Island Glass Surfboards that he calls a “utilitarian object with an aesthetic purpose.”

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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'ZAK 2005'

Through Feb. 28

Ong King Art Center, 184 N. King St., second floor

5 p.m.-midnight Sundays; 5-9 p.m. Mondays; 6-10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays

306-7823, 428-3233

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The collage “Tree Frog.”

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Don't kid yourself. Honolulu's downtown revival is not happening on the scale experienced in Philadelphia or Portland, Ore., and certainly not Brooklyn.

And it's probably for the best. That sort of thing happens when investors and real-estate developers of the highest order get together with city governments, and the results can be unpredictable, as attested by the city-block-sized ditch in downtown Philadelphia where, back in the '90s, Disney was supposed to build a theme park. The approximately four-block circle in which most of Honolulu's new galleries and trendy bars exist lives in quiet partnership with the people and businesses that predate them. On one of the peripheries they share, the corner of King and River streets, is nightlife promoter Jonathan Hereaux's new gallery and performance space, Ong King.

Ong King gambled and won on its opening night Feb. 3, asking a heavy cover charge but offering a full range of music, art, food and theater, and getting a turnout well in excess of 100 people, most of whom came late and stayed late. Among them were Makana, Contemporary Museum curator Michael Rooks and jazz drummer Jerome James.

Visitors ascend a flight of stairs to get to the spacious gallery and can continue back to a series of outdoor seating areas. During the week, the space hosts belly dancing, yoga, qi gong and drum classes. (Call to confirm gallery hours.)

Ong King's first First Friday also saw the opening of its first proper show, an exhibition by local-by-way-of-Ohio-and-California visual artist Zak Opaskar.

The Cleveland native's work follows two strikingly different streams: mildly gothic line drawings, and highly intricate, multilayered paper collages. Viewers looking for a grand unifying theory of Zak will be disappointed: The two have no visible connection except a healthy DIY sensibility.

"Not to be all deep about it, you know, but they're different, obviously, aesthetically," said Opaskar. "One is like a pointillism, line-drawing, type thing. And then the other stuff's like, I don't want to call it more valid as an art, but, something that would hang up in a museum where you'd be passing through and seeing a painting on a field trip in grade school."

Opaskar grew up reading comic books and admiring the work of Derek Hess, a Cleveland artist who made posters for local punk shows. He then left to study graphic design at the University of Cincinnati.

His sense of humor deliber-ately undercuts the cartoonish goth sensibility of the drawings. A winged figure holding an old-fashioned stick mask to his face against a moonlit backdrop is entitled "Icarus Celebrates Halloween."

The collages, on the other hand, are just as deliberate, but totally nonfigurative. Opaskar's process begins when he creates three separate paintings, with different but complementary color schemes. He then cuts them into tiny squares and arranges them according to pre-determined arithmetic patterns. The process is labor-intensive, to say the least.

"Basically, it's a time-consuming process," said Opaskar. "And at times I hate it and at times I really like it. Sometimes I feel like I'm just making more work for myself; it gives me an excuse to be working."

The results speak for themselves: richly textured, but created with simple materials, like a DIY Robert Rauschenberg, and carefully calculated. "They're very rigid. I'm not a paint thrower, you know?"

Joel Tannenbaum is a freelance writer on art and literature.