GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Mariko Merritt is curator for the Nu'uanu Gallery, set to open Thursday with a show of figurative paintings by John Young and Nathan Oliveira. With the exception of the John Young painting at center, works displayed here form a temporary exhibition at the gallery, which aims to carry museum-quality work. CLICK FOR LARGE
Museum of the street
Nu'uanu Gallery aims to foster a dialogue on contemporary art
THOSE WHO regularly roam Nuuanu on First Fridays are acquainted with the mishmash of artwork presented at commercial galleries, where one may chance upon a few gems amid a copious quantity of beginner experiments and work by friends of gallery owners.
It's better than nothing, but hardly hunting grounds for art aficionados, who might want to give Nuuanu a second look when Nu'uanu Gallery opens its doors Thursday. The operators have adopted the ambitious goal of bringing collector and museum-quality art to the street.
Opening exhibit: "John Young and Nathan Oliveira: Friendship"
Address: 1161 Nuuanu Ave.
Reception: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday
Exhibit hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays through Jan. 27
"It's not intended to compete with the other galleries, but to be complementary," said gallery curator Mariko Merritt. "Some people can't afford to pay $5 or $7 to go to a museum, so this is a space with more access because it's right downtown and it's free."
The opening exhibition pairs the figurative work of the late Hawaii artist John Young with that of his friend, Bay Area artist and former Stanford University professor Nathan Oliveira. All of the works by Young will be available for purchase. Those by Oliveira are on loan by collectors, with only a few pieces available for purchase.
AS ONE of Hawaii's art pioneers, Young spent his six-decade career -- from about 1936 until his death in 1997 -- exploring the fusion of Western contemporary abstract painting and Chinese calligraphy. His bold representations of figurative and landscape subjects are widely collected.
Where Young's figures are exuberant, bursting off the canvas in bold strokes and colors, Oliveira's solitary figures bear a mysterious, desolate, lonely quality. Their paintings are set up to reflect dialogue between the artists, showing how their friendship influenced their work as they shared ideas and visited each others' studios whenever they were in town.
"John Young kept a second easel in his studio so Nathan could come and paint," said Merritt, who graduated with a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design.
COURTESY NUUANU GALLERY
John Young's work will be on display at Nu'uanu Gallery through Jan. 27. CLICK FOR LARGE
SHE RETURNED to Hawaii to help her parents get their home in order after it was damaged by the Manoa flood two years ago, and needed to find work while work on the house continues.
"It's going slowly," she said. "I've had to do stuff like busting concrete, pouring slab and doing framing. I became, like, a super construction worker. My neighbor wanted to hire me but I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life."
She found her way to The Contemporary Museum as a volunteer helping to set up shows, and that led to this new gallery, part of The ARTS at Marks Garage family.
Merritt's parents are artists who studied ceramics at the University of Hawaii. Her mom also taught ceramics at the Toshiko Takaezu Studio at the YWCA.
"They hung out with artists so I grew up with that," she said. But having gone to school on the mainland, she realized how isolated Hawaii is regarding dialogue about the arts.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
"Some people can't afford to pay $5 or $7 to go to a museum, so this is a space with more access because it's right downtown and it's free."
With Nathan Oliveira painting
CLICK FOR LARGE
WITH THE exception of TCM, there is little connection to the mainland contemporary art scene, which is something she is attempting to introduce.
"The only artists people from Hawaii seem to be familiar with are Hawaii artists. That's the reason we want to bring in young contemporary artists from the mainland, pairing them with some of our established artists."
Plans for the gallery also include bringing in guest curators from Los Angeles and New York for their varied perspectives.
"There are a lot of people who think they have to go away to be successful, but I'm always wondering, what can we do to make this place happen?
"If we can show that Hawaii is a viable place to show because there are people buying art here, that would put the spotlight on the arts scene."