Some artists and curators are finding substantial creative influence from individual and collective reactions to closure, isolation and new relationships forced upon us by the pandemic.
As local entities attempt their staccato reentry into the new normality, creative arts venues are confronted with challenges similar to those of eateries, bars, retailers and schools; how to get people back through the doors, while still projecting a feeling of safety and security so that patrons can forget about the pandemic and just relax andenjoy the show.
After what seems too long, Kaneko, like some other art centers and galleries, will open to limited guests in November requiring (free) reservations, mandated masks and providing hand-sanitizing stations.
Kaneko’s new three-part, progressive exhibition, Community, features four artists, two with strong local connection, Watie White and Pamela Conyers-Hinson, and two of more international note, Therman Statom and Juan Sanchez. The series gathers its inspiration from shared discoveries, interpretations, and reactions to the new communal adventures and ordeals borne by and of the pandemic.
Overall, Community provides a positive reaction to this confusing, albeit revelatory pandemic situation. The four artists featured here exemplify action and advocacy in community-building, each in their own specific way.
The first exhibit, presented in Kaneko’s large Bowtruss gallery, consists of two separate groups of wood block art from Watie White. The first, in the middle of this enormous room, consists of four equally out-sized wooden panels, each carved on-site, and comprised of five, four-by-eight-foot panels of wood.
The four images together are described in accompanying literature to be an homage to Rembrandt’s De Omval. This famous print portrays a bucolic, riverside village, barely concealing a secretive pair of lovers hidden in the shadow of a foreground tree.
Enchanting in their detail and imagery, each of White’s carvings depicts a poignant moment in the artists life that connects further to the wider community. As with De Omval, White playfully includes some hidden secrets of his own.
These wood panels are inked and very easy to comprehend, though at the time of this writing, prints had not yet been pulled or displayed. The gallery has on hand smaller, digital versions of the four images, printed on fine paper and offered for sale. The smaller prints are difficult to discern from a hand-pulled print, though devotees will be probably be able to tell the difference.
The large wood blocks are surrounded by numerous of White’s celebrated 100 People portraits; a public art series started in 2017. White worked closely with his models, and these collaborative prints depict people the artist and community recognize for their activism and social advocacy. The digitally enlarged prints are taken from smaller hand-pulled originals, and many of these larger versions can be seen on buildings around Omaha.
In the center gallery, Pamela Conyers-Hinson fills her space with a lively variety of her vivid and tactile paintings, sculptures, masks and assemblages. Conyers-Hinson is known for her use of varied materials, reflecting on shared stories and experiences of women of color, and often on her African heritage.
A long-time educator, Conyers-Hinson has taught both at the community level and in public schools, and in both urban and rural communities. She works mostly with traditional methods and natural mediums; a variety of found and indigenous materials, like wood, clay, bronze, ground alabaster, and sand from the Sahara Desert. These are often combined with colorful textiles and paints to create inviting graphic images that are somewhat abstract, but representational enough to be very accessible.
Her colorful, ceremonial masks are featured here also; a collaborative, modern twist on the historically rich mask tradition often associated with many indigenous cultures. They seem intimately personal and yet culturally expressive at the same time.
Creating a grand and playful entry to Therman Statom’s exhibit, and to Kaneko’s new enlarged educational space, is a large, colorfully painted glass sculpture/wall, with a “portal,” designed by the artist. Kaneko states this wall is to be semi-permanent and evolving. The wall creates a strong invitation to the rest of Statom’s installation – a display of fabricated glass structures, lit to emphasize the color and reflectivity inherent in faceted glass work such as this.
Those unfamiliar with his work will experience a delightfully playful selection of his creations of painted glass, mirrors, and “displays” of found objects, that invite investigation and creative assumptions on the viewers part. He often integrates sound or projected imagery into his creations also.
Most of the last half of Statom’s career has emphasized educational programming and development, and most importantly, the value of workshops as a catalyst for change and positive impact on the community.
In November KANEKO will install the 40+ pieces of Juan Sanchez, an artist whose techniques of unprecedented scale have translated into his own artwork as he examines native Mexican heritage and folklore. This will be his first solo show in the U.S. Unfortunately, at the time of this review, Sanchez’s work was not available for view. As described by the Community curators , he has worked closely with Jun Kaneko “to create the largest slip-cast and raku fired artwork in the world,” and his 40-plus works to be displayed will “tell a gorgeous story of collaboration and pushing the limits of this centuries-old technique.”
Also, at the end of November, viewers can expect the complete presentation of the 1000-plus works received for Kaneko’s Tessellation Project. A specific date will be announced soon. The goal of this project is to make and display “massive communal works of art that combine the our unique space, content, and artistic natures to interact and engage while we move through each phase of this time we live in.”
Kaneko’s calendar is now more open-ended and experimental, offering progressive and staggered “openings” and preview dates, and more fluid closing dates and evolving future exhibits. In addition, their usual fall Soiree fundraising event this year is broken up into smaller offerings of exhibits, music, performance and educational events for both sponsors and the general public.
The Community exhibition opened to the public October 29, and remains so until March, 2021. Kaneko, located on 1111 Jones Street, requires mandated masks with no more than 50 guests admitted at one time. All guests must reserve a Required Free Admission Reservation in advance of their visit. Kaneko plans to open back up with regular public hours on November 5th. Visiting hours are 1-7 pm on Thursday and Friday and 12-5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. For opening and closing dates for all of the above, it is recommended to check the website for any new announcements or changes. Go to kaneko.org.