June 21, 2012
September 09, 2012
Honolulu Museum of Art
For the first time in nearly two decades, the Honolulu Museum of Art presents a focused selection of its extensive holdings in the work of Japanese-American artist Hiroshi Honda. Honda was born in Hilo in 1910 to Japanese parents who had immigrated to Hawai‘i at the turn of the 20th century. At the age of 6, he was sent to Japan to receive his education, and there he spent his childhood and young adulthood working in the family business, studying sumi-e ink drawing, and serving in the Japanese air force. In 1939, he returned to Hawai‘i to teach in Japanese schools in Hilo and Honolulu.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor changed Honda’s life profoundly. Despite his American citizenship, his Japanese education and military service made him immediately suspect as a spy. He was seized and detained on Honolulu’s Sand Island along with some 1,500 other Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals, and from there he was transported to a succession of internment camps in Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Northern California, all of them operated by the United States Justice Department for the imprisonment—without due process—of virtually anyone of Japanese descent for the duration of World War II.
Comprised of drawings and watercolors that Honda produced throughout his internment, Hiroshi Honda: Detained echoes and alludes to the grim reality of life in the camps: the daily boredom, the isolation, the lack of privacy, the relentless surveillance. Based stylistically in European modernism and Asian aesthetics, this extraordinary body of work is less documentation than poignant reflection—even as it bears unsettling witness to a tragic moment in American history.