“Abstract Calligraphy,” ink on paper by Saburo Hasegawa (Japanese, 1906-1957), c. 1955–57. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Joseph Brotherton. © Estate of Saburo Hasegawa. Photograph: Don Ross.
“Abstract Calligraphy,” ink on paper by Saburo Hasegawa (Japanese, 1906-1957), c. 1955–57. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Joseph Brotherton. © Estate of Saburo Hasegawa. Photograph: Don Ross.

Honolulu Museum of Art Exhibit Looks East from the Far West

Wayne Muromoto
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald

Many years and maybe at least 20 pounds lighter in girth ago, I had lunch with a prominent AJA businessman, now deceased. During lunch, the subject of modern art came up. He was a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran and a behind-the-scenes Democratic Party mover and shaker who was deeply involved in giving monetary support to many fledgling art organizations.

He regaled me with a story about walking around the State Capitol building with the newly elected Gov. Ben Cayetano, America’s first Filipino American governor. He pointed to a sculpture by Bumpei Akaji and said, “Eh, Ben, what do you think about this?”

According to him, Gov. Cayetano replied, with some amount of working-class disdain for fine art, “I don’t know anything about art.”

To which, the businessman replied, colorfully, “You (expletive) (expletive) (expletive)! You are the (expletive) governor of this state now. You BETTER know something about art!” And he gave the governor a brief and profanity-laced history of art in Hawai‘i and why it mattered that he knew something about it.

So dear reader, forgive me if I run about a bit in giving some background to this show. I am channeling that businessman.

“Abstract Calligraphy,” ink on paper by Saburo Hasegawa (Japanese, 1906-1957), c. 1955–57. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Joseph Brotherton. © Estate of Saburo Hasegawa. Photograph: Don Ross.
“Abstract Calligraphy,” ink on paper by Saburo Hasegawa (Japanese, 1906-1957), c. 1955–57. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Joseph Brotherton. © Estate of Saburo Hasegawa. Photograph: Don Ross.

But I’ll cut to the chase first: “Abstract Expressionism: Looking East from the Far West” is a great show. See it. Yes, it costs a bit. Even if you’re a Honolulu Museum of Art member, you’ll have to shell out 10 bucks more to see the show. But it’s worth it. Heck, a night out and dinner in Waikïkï costs more, and you won’t get as much visual fulfillment as an afternoon spent at the exhibition. You’ll get to see benchmark examples of famous modern artists that you’d rarely see outside of having to fly to New York City in order to go to the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim. You also get to see a treasure trove of local modern Abstract Expressionist artists whose works are set right next to the more famous luminaries of art history, and it all starts to make sense. Everything starts to make sense.

To read the rest of this article, please subscribe to The Herald!

“Untitled,” (1963) oil on canvas by Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991). Honolulu Museum of Art, Gift of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2011, and purchased with funds given by Persis Corporation and gift of the Dedalus Foundation (TCM.1997.1). Art © Dedalus Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
“Untitled,” (1963) oil on canvas by Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991). Honolulu Museum of Art, Gift of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2011, and purchased with funds given by Persis Corporation and gift of the Dedalus Foundation (TCM.1997.1). Art © Dedalus Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
“My Mystic Pilgrimage,” an oil on canvas work by Hawai‘i artist Isami Doi (1903–1965). Collection of Nancy and Herb Conley. © Estate of Isami Doi.
“My Mystic Pilgrimage,” an oil on canvas work by Hawai‘i artist Isami Doi (1903–1965). Collection of Nancy and Herb Conley. © Estate of Isami Doi.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here