Hot topics get scream treatment in 'Red'
By Lesa Griffith
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Lesa Griffith
From Bolshevik-era propaganda posters to just-made-yesterday wheat-pasted street art (such as the Shepard Fairey works still gracing Honolulu walls), graphic designers know the power of black, red and white. In "Seeing Red," the show at the Pegge Hopper Gallery, graphic designers — including New York legend Milton Glaser ("I ª NY" is his) — visually scream about burning issues.
From the Iraq war to Hawai'i's public schools, society's betes noire are envisioned in bold graphics — "we wanted to create a chance for Hawai'i to 'see red' and feel compelled to do something about the issues that affect us," says Jesse Arneson.
He, Chris Thomas and Julia Zimmerman — all designers — curated the show. Thomas had envisioned an all-Hawai'i exhibition and approached Pegge Hopper. She loved the idea, but because of artists' schedules, it didn't pan out.
"So we made a list of our favorite designers," says Thomas, "and they all responded." Along with 11 local designers, the list included Glaser — whose indictment of the situation in Darfur, Sudan, states, "We are all African" — guerrilla graphic artist Chaz Maviyane-Davies and Partisan Project founding member Brett Yasko.
Graphic design is about the interplay of image and text, the visual and verbal pun. "Seeing Red" delivers those in spades, making ugly topics engaging, witty, bitterly humorous. Witness Jef Hartsel's reworking of the "Star Wars" logo into "Stop Wars," or Arneson's iconic Coleman cooler standing in for soon-to-be glacierless Glacier National Park.
Scott Na'auao addresses Hawai'i's housing crisis, placing on a flat field two cardboard boxes, one with a window, door and a sign reading "$2,477/mo." Below that, appropriately tiny letters spell it out: "Affordable housing in Hawai'i."
In the gallery next door is a show of works by Le Jardin Academy sixth-graders. The curators taught them "the power of image in society," says Arenson, and hung the adjacent show not "to make it cute — we wanted a different perspective."
Fifteen hand-screened prints were made of each of the grown-ups' work, and they are $200 each, with proceeds going to a charity chosen by each artist.
" 'Seeing Red' is in the red," says Arenson, who seeks funding for the show, which will travel to Pittsburgh and Seattle.
Reach Lesa Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org.