Current ReVisions

Hawaiian Craft

On the beautiful island of Hawaii, the Kahilu Gallery presents Current ReVisions, a unique exhibition featuring 14 of Hawaii’s working artisans craftsmen, contemporary artists and cultural practitioners. AGGROculture, a Hamakua based art collective, consisting of island born Keith Tallett, Margo Ray, Scott Yoell and Sally Lundburg, curated this exhibition which examines how Hawaii craft lives, influences and has evolved in the 21st century.

Current ReVisions “draws from a common source and location; they span different generations, ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, disciplines, formal practices and are stylistically diverse. The work of these artists work demands both a visceral and intellectual response from the viewer.” Keith Tallet, one of the founders of AGGROculture says, “I wanted to spark a dialogue and create a space of equality between craft, art and function.” This raises questions such as, “How has the artist incorporated the skills and techniques of the past into contemporary practices, and what do current skills and techniques tell us about whom we are as a society and a culture?”

 
Current ReVisions pulls together a diverse pool of artists, looking at practices such as body decoration, sailing, fishing, fashion, surfboards, basket weaving, textile design, and more. It displays the diversity of talents and layers of artistic identity throughout Hawaii. Keith says, “This show explores traditions, decoration, community and functionality, design and art practices.” In curating the show, they looked for a range of artists working today. When I asked Keith how he selected the artists he said,  “Pretty much through the coconut wireless, as we say, via word of mouth.”

 
The mix of mediums, styles and forms beautifully play off one another in the light, open space of the Kahilu Gallery. Highlights include Hualalai as he willingly brought in his canoe in pieces, reconstructed it, and rigged it to the 15-foot high ceiling. Keith adds, “There is one space that includes my large tire tread paintings, Nita Pilago's graphic textile prints, Tricia Allen's tattoo photographs and Carl Pao's conceptual carvings on implements and their resulting prints. All of these reference traditional motifs and mark making in different forms.  Another grouping includes implements - Carlos Kuhn's mango wood alaia (surfboard) and documentation of his process, along with Henani Enos and Olu Saquid's combine painting of an implement accompanied by the actual implement. Also in the grouping are Beau Jack Key's finely crafted fishhooks and bracelets.  And the surfboard wall in the west gallery was really exciting to me as a surfer and shaper, in it's range of styles and materials from papa he'e nalu (traditional wood boards) of koa and wiliwili wood,  to more experimental designs and materials, like plywood and foam, agave, tongue and groove pine, and balsa.”

 
Current ReVisions aims to look at the way craft in Hawaii has changed and evolved over time. Keith says, “There isn't a sustained structure setup to support traditional Hawaiian crafts. I think that craft in Hawaii has evolved and been sustained in a more organic fashion, through families, workshops and mentorships. But I also think, that from an outside perspective, the commercialization of our Hawaiian culture has resulted in our craft traditions being stereotyped. Plastic leis, tikis and hotel luaus seem to personify Hawaii through visitor eyes.” This exhibition addresses the real source of craft tradition. As written in their statement, “Historically, craft in Hawai’i had a strong tie to the functional sphere of everyday life. Carved hooks and woven baskets were used for fishing, tapa and tattoo served as ways to record family lineage, wooden boards were hand cut and shaped for recreation. And, while there is no word for “art” in the Hawaiian language, aesthetic design choices were developed and advanced into a tradition and vocabulary that has been studied, admired and preserved."

 
When asked about his intentions behind this exhibition Keith says, “My hope is that the resulting connections and conversations continue. Gary Eoff includes a statement in his bio that I think sums up what I'm feeling. ‘By rediscovering the traditional practices and skill of our ancestors, we protect the land and ocean resources for our future.’”

 
 “Current ReVisions – Hawaiian Craft Today” exhibition will be on display from October 28 through November 27, 2011. For more information please visit, www.aggroculture.org

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