Wish You Were Here: Works by Ashley Bickerton, Paul Pfeiffer, Garnett Puett, and Lawrence Seward

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    Lawrence Seward. "Paper Lei" 2013. Stainless steel, aluminum, pvc, paint.

August 30, 2013 - September 29, 2013
Chanel Waikiki Boutique

Exhibition Overview

Chanel Waikiki Boutique
2116 Kalakaua Ave.
10:30am–10:30pm daily

The Honolulu Museum of Art presents this exhibition of work by four artists who have notable New York careers while maintaining close ties to Hawai‘i. The title refers to that classic postcard sentiment, expressing the artists’ motivation to create provocative interpretations of an “island paradise.”

Ashley Bickerton (b. 1959 Barbados, West Indies)
Bickerton was born in the Bahamas and lived in Hawai‘i through his adolescence. He went from the University of Hawai‘i to the California Institute of the Arts, then to New York in the early 1980s, coming into prominence as part of the Neo-Geo movement along with Jeff Koons. In 1997, he moved to Bali where he found what is touted as an idyllic paradise to be “riddled with corruption, greed, snarling Third-World traffic and a booming 21st-century economy.” Bickerton’s new figurative work depicts crayon-colored scenes of this intersection of trashed tropics and encroaching urban, developed world, populated by the hedonic, voluptuous, multicultural motley crew this world attracts. It’s Gauguin’s fictional paradise on acid and on the rave circuit.

Paul Pfeiffer (b. 1966 Honolulu, Hawai‘i)
Pfeiffer was born in Hawai‘i and raised in the Philippines, and moved to New York in 1990. He has attracted international acclaim for his work with found footage, and was featured in PBS’s Art:21. Pfeiffer digitally processes photographs and videos by removing the central image from iconic images. He raises questions about their identities and their origins, and recontextualizes them in a world dominated by mass media. In his work 24 Landscapes (2000 /2008), Pfeiffer takes famous film beach scene stills of Marilyn Monroe, taken by George Barris and others throughout her career, and eliminates her from the images. With the central figure removed, the viewer's gaze shifts to the romantic beach landscape that hover in the background.

Garnett Puett (b. 1959 Hahira, Georgia)
Puett runs the honey-making Big Island Bees on Hawai‘i Island, works in beeswax and develops the basic forms for his sculpture by welding together steel armatures into abstract or figurative shapes, which he then coats with beeswax. The coated form is enclosed in a box, and then he introduces bees to the box. If the bees do not reject the form they begin adding and shaping combs. The thought of thousands of bees swarming over the form is slightly grotesque and even haunting but at the same time can be strangely beautiful and magical.

Lawrence Seward (b. 1966 Honolulu, Hawai‘i)
Born and raised on O‘ahu, Seward returned after 17 years in New York. His work is conceptually driven with a whimsical edge.  His two sculptures are take offs from the Honolulu Airport’s display mannequins that stand upright with their arms bent at the elbow holding a box of "Hawaiian Chocolates.” He removed their function by rendering two combined back halves, leaving no frontal orientation. The figures, cast in in bronze, intentionally have the patina of the bronze souvenirs at commercial “art” galleries in high-traffic tourist areas.  The Paper Lei is Seward’s translation of the traditional elementary-school craft that simultaneously references its cultural origins and symbolizes the post-contact filter with which cultural objects and traditions experience some or with great distortion or loss of the original meaning. His work is included in the collection of the Whitney Museum.