Adventures of Jurying the Honolulu Printmakers 87th Exhibition, Part 4

Monoprints by Marika Emi

With heavy hearts did we make our way home to the Midwest a week ago. It wasn’t for the weather we were dreading the return, but the fear of forgetting the things we had learned while working and spending time with fellow artists from the Honolulu Printmakers. Our stay in Honolulu has transformed us in a crucial way. Our minds are opened, our hearts softened, and we are infused with passion and motivation to more deeply believe in the world we part-take in. We lost a part of ourselves there, and thus really did travel, and not just visit. It wasn’t the beauty of the island, the warmth of the Pacific, the fresh produce available, the colors, or the break from the Mainland that struck us so hard. It was the people we met. The artists we met, they were all stomping from the ground a cultural discourse in the middle of the Pacific, between East and West, where nothing is to gain, but building a strong foundation for a critical open discourse while challenging all visitors, locals and Hawaiians on what it means to go forward when living in a fragile ecology, and an international context. In many ways, the artists there are more then artists, they are like active anthropologists… In 11 days we got to see over 200 prints for Honolulu Printmakers 87th Annual Exhibition, hang a show of 105 selected entries, do a short demo at Duncan Dempster’s class at University of Hawaii at Manoa, talk on KTUH radio with DJ The Curator, visit Pali Point and hike a trail with artists Drew Broderick and Marika Emi, run the collaborative workshop, Mirrored Strands, that we installed together and had a small reception for, visit the prints and drawings collection at the Honolulu Museum of Art thanks to Brady Evans, converse with artist and head the Honolulu Art Museum of Art School, Vince Hazen, get invited to dinner by local artist Laura Smith, see the .5ppi project happening with crew and community, talk to local journalist Mindy Pennybacker, grab dinner at Zippy’s with the awesome board of the Honolulu Printmakers, and talk about local architectural history with Scott Wilson. As you can tell by that run on sentence it was a plump few days! To round out our visit and close this chapter on our adventure in Hawai’i, we end with a few spotlights of local art happenings that didn’t quite fit into our coverage of the Honolulu Printmakers Exhibition, but should be shared just the same.

We offer you…. Marika Emi, .5ppi Project, Drew Broderick, and Mayumi Oda

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Marika Emi is a Honolulu-based artist whose practice is rooted in printmaking, but effortlessly sways into a multitude of processes and formats including (but not limited to) fashion, public art, and education. Marika’s submissions the Honolulu Printmakers 87th Annual Exhibition was given prominent placement for its unique exploration of material and its funky disposition. As our host in Hawai’i, we were lucky enough to spend many hours with Marika talking art, shop, and life. Her exploratory work continues to inspire.

Sonnenzimmer (SZ): Where do you see printmaking at the moment culturally?

Marika Emi (ME): That’s a pretty broad first question.. not sure how to approach. I’ll answer the first two together. Printmaking has cultural significance because it has a social history that involves shared studios, presses, and workshops that inform work geographically in a way that is very organic to me. Other mediums (painting, sculpture) tend to be more isolated, more heady. My entry into printmaking was through the University of Hawaii at Manoa studios and I immediately loved working in a community studio. The language of print media is totally ripe for exploration (I don’t get ‘print is dead’ at all) and here in Hawaii, more than other places I’ve lived, the Honolulu Printmakers is one of the most robust, diverse, and supportive creative communities I’ve witnessed. I used to be involved in the spoken word community here and I see a lot of parallels between the two in terms of close creative partnerships, mentorships, and stylistic influences.

SZ: Where is do you see your work situated within that conversation and specifically within the Honolulu landscape?

ME: My work is, more and more, about playfully pushing the boundaries of what more traditional printmakers consider ‘print’. This conversation may be central to contemporary printmaking practices in other places, but here in Hawaii, it’s only recently become relevant to organizations like the Honolulu Printmakers. It’s becoming relevant because, quite simply, there are more and more younger (or more… youthful?) printmakers getting involved and their relationship to digital and print media is slowly informing the way people here think about prints. My entry into the Honolulu Printmakers annual exhibition this year was all about de-valued prints; digital inkjet prints, screenprinted shirts, rejected works. I’m also incorporating my broader interests — cooking, gardening, music/DJing/dancing, anthropology, performance — into my new work.

SZ: Since coming out from school, has your interest in terms of art practice changed or if shifted? And if so, how?

ME: I didn’t really go to school to pursue art professionally, so at least my expectations haven’t changed that much. I am primarily an educator right now and this has shifted my practice more than anything. I teach K-12 students mostly and work for the Honolulu Museum of Art, so I’ve been influenced by the kinds of experiences that emerge (as any teacher knows) from having students completely surprise and delight and horrify me on a near-daily basis. I’ve been doing it for the last year and a half and I think I approach art making as a place of play, experimentation and risk taking much more than I used to.

SZ: What are your working on, any upcoming projects?

ME: I am a part of .5ppi, an awesome collaborative project that you can find more about at pointfiveppi.com and kakaakopixelwall.com. We are about a month away from finishing a mural of woodblock prints around an entire city block construction wall. I am working on an outdoor installation for an upcoming show at the Honolulu Museum of Art School called Contact that responds to the period of contact in Hawaii between the late 1890’s (post annexation) and the 1930s. I also am putting together a pop up show / party in late May based on a series of rap/ratchet lyrics that I’ve been turning into very traditional letterpress prints and fabricating into large (8 foot) transparent mesh banners that will be hung in a club that hosts one of Honolulu’s main rap/hip hop nights.

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.5ppi may be the brainchild of printmaker and Honolulu Printmaker executive director, Duncan Dempster, but its facilitated by a whole boatload of local artists. The collective has found a way to produce large-scale public works in a fun and engaging way that highlights printmaking’s strengths and keeping it completely enticing to the uniformed. We had the great pleasure of seeing their Kaka’ako studio and even help install (a small part anyways) their most recent project in the same neighborhood. The project was previously featured in these hallowed halls. So in lieu of another interview, here’s a link to that post.

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Drew Broderick is a Honolulu-based artists obliterating the status quo. He’s a cultural producer with his hands in several cookie jars, making art, producing exhibitions for his and other’s work as well as dreaming up big plans for contemporary art in Hawai’i. Drew’s monoprint “Fuck Paradise” was given center stage in this year’s Honolulu Printmakers exhibition for its bold and complex typographic message.

Sonnenzimmer (SZ): You’re an artist in your own right, but your practice seems so much broader than that, having run your own exhibition space. Is this a balancing act for you, or does is it something more organic than that?

Drew Broderick (DB): I’m more interested in failed attempts at multitasking than in harmonious presentations of the food pyramid. “Artist-run spaces” have always been about self-interest and in that sense, often fit into the larger practices of the artists who run them. Ultimately, the varying conditions inhabited (artist, curator, preparator, gallerist, dealer, friend, relative etc.) are subsumed under the larger mode of “production.”

SZ: Hawai’i might just be the last place in America retaining some kind of regional identity in the arts. Your recent work is specifically about Hawaii, and much of the work from other artists you showed at your former project space, SPF Projects, had a similar focus. Can you talk a bit about that a bit?

DB: Rumor has it that in 1898 the United States of America illegally annexed the Kingdom of Hawaii so technically speaking Hawaii is not actually in America. This may help to explain Hawaii’s robust regional identity (in the Arts). There are a lot of unaddressed recent histories in the Pacific, and the majority of them have some connection to the Hawaiian Islands. My recent work as well as the work from other artists exhibited at SPF Projects’ former site is an attempt at beginning to engage with and question some of these histories.

SZ: In conversation, you mentioned one of the biggest lessons you learned from the SPF Projects gallery space is that Honolulu doesn’t need another gallery, but instead a home spun critical dialogue around the arts. Seems like you are moving closer to facilitating that. Can you talk about the why’s and hows?
DB: Hawaii’s art community is provincial in the best and worst sense of the word; congratulatory hugs are often substituted for critically engaged dialogue. “Great job!” Concurrently, touristic expectations place pressures on the local art market to pump out stereotyped depictions of a fictionalized tropical “Paradise”. Needless to say, Hawaii currently lacks an environment favorable to producing, exhibiting, buying, selling, writing about, reading about, or thinking about contemporary art on any level. In response to these circumstances and in an attempt to build capacity, I will be redirecting SPF Projects’ efforts into a series of small print run artist publications focusing on different subjects relevant to Hawaii’s unique historical position.

SZ: Facilitation aside, we first got to know your personal work via a group show at Roots & Culture, here in Chicago. Can you talk about what you have coming up or what you are excited about exploring personally?

DB: Shout out to Third Object, y’all dat Mossy Cloak at Roots & Culture was lookin’ real good! Future projects and directions? Hmmm, in all likelihood the “Mainland”. I can’t wait to perpetuate the abandonment mentality that gives rise to the mediocrity that has come to define (the Arts of) Hawaii. Chee pono!

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Mayumi Oda was our biggest discovery in Honolulu. Her masterful large-format screen prints practically dominated the island of Oahu. We first encountered two of her prints in the home we stayed in during our stay. Next, we saw two more at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s current exhibit, Modern Love: 20th-Century Japanese Erotic Art, then we saw a whole career’s worth of work at Robyn Buntin Gallery. We were floored. When do you get to encounter work on all these levels… explored in a domestic space, canonized in a museum space, and then completely purchasable at a commercial space. In addition to her print work, Oda has a legacy of activism in Hawai’i, as she put it, “It’s not time to paint goddesses anymore; it’s time to become one.” Enough said.

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Monoprint by Marika Emi

.5ppi breaking it down

.5ppi pasting it up

.5ppi in full effect

50th State by Drew Broderick at In4mation

Lawrence Seward at SPF Projects

Nicolas Sassoon and Tamara Rigney at SPF Projects

Mayumi Oda's She made the Magic

Mayumi Oda's Dakini the Sky Goer

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