“‘Independent Work’ by University of Hawaii Art Students”

George Hall, University of Hawaii

This is a show that attempts to be “way out” and which succeeds—in part. Seven students organized the exhibit with only a “rough defining of limits” by three faculty members. Most of the work was done out of class.

Despite the department’s labeling the showing as “representing only one very small aspect of the program of the art department,” the art faculty is to be congratulated for its courage in mounting the show at this particular time. It will be up through August and the many summer school students who flock to the University (mainly to take surfing and ukulele for credit) will see this as the only art show on the campus.

Three students—Dennis Oppenheim, H. Okino and M. M. Yamashita—selected and mounted their work and a few others. Of the three, sculptor Okino is wittiest and most interesting. Working in a Cubist-Surrealist idiom, he has a beautiful feel for materials, color and texture. His works remind one of Picasso, yet they can’t really be called derivative. Especially moving is Crucifixion in which thin “strings” of welded metal are pushed and pulled to emulate the mutilated sinews, tendons and blood veins of Christ. The cross is not represented; reality is only approached by the upward stretching of a “pleading” wire and the cupping of wires to form a half-closed hand.

Oppenheim and Yamashita, who present both paintings and sculptures, are not as convincing. Oppenheim’s abstractions consist of the violent stroke, heavily-loaded brush and murky colors that have come down to us from Expressionism; yet his figures, (nudes for the most part) for their contorted writhing, seem only to say “So what?” While Yamashita’s paintings are out-and-out dull (one of them hints at Jasper Johns’ circles), his ceramic sculptures show great sympathy and understanding for the medium. His forms grow out of cylindrical and circular shapes; they are embellished with handsome glazing and colors. Yet, as Picasso has already demonstrated, ceramics are a difficult medium for individual expression on the sculptural level.

Joanna Shaw Eagle