Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawaii Pictures


Honolulu Museum of Art, July 18, 2013 through Jan. 12, 2014.
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM, February 7, 2014 through September 14, 2014.

Organized by Theresa Papanikolas, Honolulu Museum of Art’s curator for European and American Art, this exhibition will bring together for the first time works inspired by the natural beauty of Hawaii as uniquely experienced by each artist. The show will run from

Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams are two of America’s most influential modernists, each celebrated for their interpretations of particular places: O’Keeffe, the American Southwest and Adams, Yosemite National Park; both are revered for their ability to capture and translate their experience of natural beauty onto paper for their audience.

The two met in 1929 in Taos, New Mexico and developed a lifelong friendship through a mutual admiration and devotion to the natural world.

The exhibition includes works from O’Keeffe’s trip to Honolulu and neighboring islands in 1939, commissioned by The Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now the Dole Company). On her two month stay she visited Hawaii’s vast array of natural wonders, isolating single forms and creating modern, abstracted compositions based on observation of the natural world. O’Keeffe went beyond painting the popular stereotypical Hawaii, approaching each piece with an original perspective drawn from her well-established practice of landscape and still-life painting.

“O’Keeffe was an experienced colorist; she also deployed a dramatic palette to intensify the exotic beauty of specific landscapes and flowers she encountered in the islands,” said Carolyn Kastner, Curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

O’Keeffe unveils the subject in her own authentic and personal response, exposing the inescapable beauty of the form itself. Each piece is sophisticated in palette, it reflects and reinforces her characteristically modernist dissection of landscape and botanical life.

Ansel Adams’ photographs of Hawaii were also commissioned, first in 1948 for the Department of the Interior, and in 1957 for a commemorative publication for Bishop National Bank of Hawaii (currently First Hawaiian Bank). Like O’Keeffe, Adams sought to reveal a nontraditional view of the islands, aiming to capture a sense of place with his unique style and showing the viewer the connection between the land and its inhabitants.

In a letter written by Adams in 1938 he explains, “If I have any niche at all in the photographic presentation of America, I think it would be chiefly to show the land and the sky as the settings for human activity.”

The exhibition showcases Adams’ abilities as a modern photographer to offer penetrating and revelatory insight about his subjects with absolute technical mastery of the photographic process.

“The exhibition builds on the concept of the 2008 exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities to analyze how each artist responded to an unfamiliar tropical environment, despite an initial hesitation and the predominance of tourist imagery,” said Kastner. “

As pointed out by exhibition organizer Theresa Papanikolas, curator of the Honolulu Museum of Art, neither artist followed the familiar clichés of ‘moonlit seas, swaying coconut palms, and the ubiquitous profile of Diamond Head,’ which defined the islands in the popular visual culture of the time.”

A catalogue of essays written by Theresa Papanikolas and Anne Hammond will accompany the exhibition, comparing and contrasting the artists’ personal approach to their craft. The essays explore how O’Keeffe and Adams avoided popular stereotypes in formulating their artistic expressions of how they experienced Hawaii. Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawai‘i Pictures was organized by the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Ansel Adams' "Buddhist Grave markers and Rainbow, Paia, Maui, Hawaii," 1956, ;Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. Photo: ©First Hawaiian Bank

Ansel Adams' "Sanchez Family, Wailuku Plantation, Maui," 1957, Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona Photo: ©First Hawaiian Bank

Ansel Adams' "On the Island of Molokai, Hawaii," c. 1957, ;Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Photo: ©First Hawaiian Bank

Ansel Adams' "Fish pond at dawn near Kaunakakai, Molokai," 1958, Plate 17 from "The Islands of Hawaii," ;Collection First Hawaiian Bank, Photo: ©First Hawaiian Bank

Ansel Adams' "Roots, Foster Garden, Hawaii," 1948, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry B. Clark, Jr., 1989

Georgia O'Keeffe's oil painting ;"Waterfall—No. III—Iao Valley," 1939, ;gift of Susan Crawford Tracy to the Honolulu Museum of Art. Photo: Honolulu Museum Of Art

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Heliconia—Crab Claw," 1939, is part of a private collection.
Photo: © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 2," 1939, gift of the Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation, 1994 Photo: Honolulu Museum Of Art

Georgia O'Keeffe's "White Bird of Paradise," 1939, was a gift of Jean H. McDonald to the O'Keeffe Museum. Photo: © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society

Georgia O'Keeffe's "Pawpaw (Papaya) Tree, Iao Valley, Maui," 1939, gift of Susan Crawford Tracy, 1996 Photo: Honolulu Museum Of Art