Suzanne Tswei

Local Color
Sunday, June 24, 2001


Masami Teraoka, a Japan-born artist who established his
reputation in Los Angeles, was one of the artists invited to The
Contemporary Museum's inaugural biennial show in 1993.
He is the first artist to have been chosen twice
for the prestigious exhibit.

Unpredictable works
challenge the mind


It was only a matter of time before Bill and Monica and her infamous blue dress became fodder for the canvas, and the time is now at The Contemporary Museum's fifth Biennial Exhibition.

Clinton is without his pants and Lewinsky is naked except for her beret and the strategically draped blue dress. In Masami Teraoka's huge oil on canvas, "the Tower of Babel," the indiscreet couple takes many different forms - mostly without clothes - with a full cast of Catholic officials and familiar congressional members.

In one corner, Bill and Monica look nothing like themselves. They are merely two naked bodies entwined in microphones and electrical cords. In another corner, elected officials are lined up to slide down a huge cigar into eternal hell.


Place: Contemporary Museum
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 12
Cost: $5
Call: 526-1322

"I think there will be people who will find Masami's painting difficult," says chief curator Jay Jensen, "but I want to show the painting because it's an example of the most interesting work being done in Hawaii."

Teraoka's paintings in this exhibit are considerably different from the watercolors that first earned him critical praise, Jensen said. Teraoka has been in a transitional stage, building upon the thoughtful social commentary and a style that drew upon Japanese aesthetics.

"He's kind of matured into a new body of work that may be challenging for some people. But I feel he's produced some major canvases, and one of which happens to deal with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky," Jensen said.

The aim of the biennial exhibit is to recognize work of "quality, substance and significance," Jensen said. This year, six artists are represented.

"I am always looking for the best work being done, the most interesting work being done, also for things that are not predictable."

Being invited to the biennial should not be thought of as an award, although each artist receives a $1,000 honorarium to help offset the cost of art making, he said.

Collectively, the six artists represent a wide range of contemporary expressions in Hawaii, representing varying viewpoints, ideas, styles, media and techniques that the artists have managed to nourish - remarkably - in a place isolated from other centers of contemporary art.

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Suzanne Tswei's art column runs Sundays in Today.
You can write her at the Star-Bulletin,
500 Ala Moana, Suite 7-210, Honolulu, HI, 96813
or email

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