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Hawaiian Idyll: The Prints of John Kelly
September 8 - October 23, 2005
The Honolulu Academy of Arts is presenting Hawaiian Idyll: The Prints of John Kelly in the Henry R. Luce Special Exhibition Gallery through October 23, 2005. (right: John Kelly, United States/Hawaii, 1878 -1962, Breadfruit Boy, Hawaii, ca. 1930s or 1940s, color aquatint, 14 7/16 x 9 5/8 inches (36.7 x 24.4 cm). Gift of John Melville Kelly, Jr., and Marion Greig Anderson Kelly Trust, 1999)
Like other artists in Hawaii during the first half of the twentieth century, John Kelly (18781962) traveled to Oahu expecting to stay a year but remained a lifetime. He ultimately became one of the most beloved portrayers of Hawaiians and their island lifestyle. A prolific printmaker during the 1920s40s, Kelly depicted first in black and white etchings and drypoints and then more complex color aquatint prints portrait studies and scenes of daily activities in Hawaii's tropical Pacific setting. Using the people he knew as his models -- hula dancers, housekeepers, and fisherman, among others -- he rendered his sitters, ranging from keiki (children) to kupuna (seniors), with sensitive characterizations and captured them in occupations familiar as a part of local life. Much of Kelly's imagery has come to personify for many today the beauty and grace of Old Hawaii, a romanticized notion of the quieter and gentler side of Hawaii's past.
Hawaiian Idyll: The Prints of John Kelly is the first major exhibition of the artist's work since the memorial show that commemorated him and his achievements on his death. Drawn from the Academy's preeminent collection of prints by Kelly, extensively deepened over the past twelve years by generous donations made by the Kelly family, the exhibition will survey his career as a printmaker.
The prints will span Kelly's years as an active printmaker, hinting at his stylistic development and the broadening of his imagery. The exhibition will showcase Kelly's early drypoints and etchings before he learned the aquatint process in the 1930s and devoted himself to color intaglio printmaking, as well as the range of his color work as it became increasingly stylized in design, complex in execution, and romanticized in imagery. Hawaiian Idyll will feature impressions of some of Kelly's best-known work, such as Kamalii, 1934, and Grass Skirt, Hawaii, 1953, both gift prints published by the Honolulu Printmakers. Bodies of work less familiar to his audience, such as portraits and, as began to appear around the 1940s, subjects based on Eastern philosophy, art history, and culture, will also be featured.
Kelly's technical processes as a printmaker will be explored through a sampling of working proofs corrected with ink wash. In addition, the exhibition will include impressions reflecting early states and, in one instance, a set of progress proofs documenting the development of an impression through the superimposed printing of multi-color inkings of a plate. The actual copper plate Kelly used for the creation of Grass Skirt, Hawaii will reflect the delicacy of his intaglio linework.
Kelly's life and career as a printmaker will take fuller shape through an interpretive section that will feature among other things, a selection of prints and sculpture by Kate Kelly, an artist, Kelly's wife, and his instructor in printmaking after taking at the University of Hawaii a class on the subject led by Hawaii printmaker Huc Luquiens. Photographs shot by Kate Kelly of John Kelly's models in costume striking a pose together with drawings of his models taken from life will further deepen the exhibition's examination of Kelly's working techniques. A group of Kelly's printmaking tools, printing papers and tartan rags, and other memorabilia will bring his printmaking vividly to life. (right: John Kelly, United States/Hawaii, 1878 -1962, Breadfruit Girl, Hawaii, ca. 1930s, color aquatint, 14 1/4 x 9 13/16 inches (36.2 x 24.9 cm). Gift of John Melville Kelly, Jr., and Marion Greig Anderson Kelly Trust, 1999)
The Academy's Curator of Western art, Jennifer Saville, is organizing this major retrospective exhibition celebrating the art and life of one of Hawaii's preeminent artists.
Also on exhibit is A.S. MacLeod: Prints of Hawaii at War and Peace. Jennifer Saville, Curator of Western Art says of the exhibit:
(above: Alexander Samuel MacLeod, (1888-1956), Pig and Poi, ca. 1930, lithograph 9 15/16 x 11 3/8 inches (25.24 x 28.89 cm.). Purchase, 1931)
(above: Alexander Samuel MacLeod, (1888-1956), Untitled (Man preparing to throw a fishing net), lithograph, 9 1/4 x 7 1/8 inches (23.50 x 18.10 cm). Purchase, 1990)
(above: Alexander Samuel MacLeod, (1888-1956), Mountains and Rice Fields, lithograph, 10 1/2 x 12 inches (26.66 x 30.47 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Watters O. Martin, Jr., 1994)
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