The integration of the Honolulu Academy of Arts and The Contemporary Museum is about making contemporary art more accessible to the community. The first sign of that is this long-term exhibition of works by leading contemporary artists such as Kara Walker and Gregory Crewdson, who explore complex ideas and concerns about current social, political, economic, psychological and moral issues. Though they all express an unease about the way of today’s world, these works also suggest an overarching search for universal meanings and understandings.
Robert Arneson’s monumental ceramic sculpture Temple of Fatal Laffs, a former fixture on the Spalding House grounds, goes back on view for the first time in five years, after undergoing conservation treatment. In this work Arneson contemplates, with a sense of humor, life in the face of death—he was ill with cancer at the time he made it in 1989 and died three years later.
The two humongous human torsos of Dennis Oppenheim’s sculpture Murder in Hawaiian Shirts are dressed in acid-lime aloha shirts patterned with sea life. As if in a nightmare, the images on the cloth shirts become three-dimensional and spill onto the floor, mixing with a pineapple, a gun, and other objects, all painted blood red. The work is both gruesome and hilarious to contemplate.