Hawaiian interpretation of international Art Deco style. Seductive!

Hawaiian interpretation of international Art Deco style. Seductive!
Yareah Magazine

Exhibition rediscovers seductive Hawaiian interpretation of international Art Deco style; looks at movement as constructed paradise. Exhibition at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

‘ART DECO HAWAI‘I’ OPENS JULY 3 2014. Enjoy your day, Yareah friends. Art is everywhere and up to you!


Eugene Savage. Pomp and Circumstances, 1940. Collection Matson

HONOLULU, HAWAI‘I (April 7, 2014)—Eugene Savage’s six 1940 Technicolor-hued murals created for shipping giant Matson make their maiden journey to Hawai‘i as the centerpiece of Art Deco Hawai‘i, the first major museum exhibition to focus on the Hawaiian take on the international Art Deco style, which flourished in the islands from the 1920s to 1940s. The exhibition opens July 3 and runs through Jan. 11, 2015.

Completed in 1940 for the luxury liner the S.S. Lurline, which shuttled between the West Coast and Hawai‘i, Savage’s lavish works remained in California with the start of World War II. They now make their island debut 74 years later, joining works from private collections in Hawai‘i and across the country, as well as the Honolulu Museum of Art’s collection.

Art Deco Hawai‘i is a chance for viewers to rediscover an influential art movement in Hawai‘i that emerged at the same time as the Miami Beach version of Art Deco. While “pink flamingo” Art Deco is indelibly linked to Florida in the public’s mind, Hawaiian Art Deco has remained the province of specialist collectors hunting for eBay finds. The Honolulu Museum of Art takes a close look at the artwork and commercial illustration of this period, animating a richly vibrant time in the history of Hawai‘i’s culture.

Lloyd Sexton (American, 1912-1990). 'Egrets and Pandanus,' c. 1940s

Lloyd Sexton (American, 1912-1990). ‘Egrets and Pandanus,’ c. 1940s

The exhibition showcases Western artists’ seductive interpretation of Hawaiian culture filtered through the international Art Deco style, as well as their creation of a fantastical, semi-fictional image of Hawai‘i that helped sell it as a tourist destination and today survives in everything from Waikīkī sundry-store keychains to textiles used in resort wear. The exhibition, curated by Theresa Papanikolas, curator of European and American art at the Honolulu Museum of Art, has been three years in the making.

“Beginning in the 1920s and lasting through the Second World War, Art Deco, at once streamlined, modern, historicizing, and eclectic, manifested itself in Honolulu and its environs as a schematized visual language based on the natural beauty and fabled past of the islands, and it was driven by an iconography of place that was developed and perpetuated to serve specific cultural, political, and commercial ends,” says Papanikolas.

Along with the Savage murals, Art Deco Hawai‘i brings together a rich, representative array of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper to show how artists active in Hawai‘i during the interwar period—long considered to be an isolated, conservative group creating watered-down versions of avant-garde art—adapted the conventions of abstraction to the Deco aesthetic to develop a regional form of modernism centered on the islands’ singular sense of place.

Included in the show are paintings and sculpture by such artists as Don Blanding, Marguerite Blasingame, Robert Lee Eskridge, Arman Manookian, Isamu Noguchi, Agnes Lawrence Pelton, Gene Pressler, Lloyd Sexton, and Madge Tennent, as well as decorative objects like Ming’s jewelry, and furniture. From Manookian’s captivating crayon-colored modernist canvases to Roy King’s muscular monkeypod sculpture Horse and Rider, which would be at home at Rockefeller Center, Art Deco Hawai‘i is a visual feast of a Hawai‘i we all long for but that only ever existed in our imagination.

Accompanying the exhibition is a full-color soft-cover catalogue by curator Papanikolas, with a contribution bo DeSoto Brown of Bishop Museum.

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