Ektopia, a new gallery in Kaimuki, has been altered from a former Vietnamese restaurant by a local artist to display modern art. Its inaugural show does not disappoint. Sergio Garzon is one of the few working artists in Honolulu capable of filling a room large enough to be a car dealership.
Garzon’s technique and subject matter are as classical as it gets: woodcuts and paintings of food, vistas and women. What is slightly less classical is the size. Each print in the new show measures at least 8-feet by 4-feet, and Garzon has solved the problem of the beautiful matrix by placing the woodcut right next to the print, creating an alternate, textured mirror image of each piece.
For the food prints, he’s showing off a bit. Each fruit or vegetable was carved in a different manner, using the tools of the craft to dig, burr and gouge in patterns that reflect the texture of the subject item. The slight curves of a banana are disrupted by the mottled gashes of a grapefruit, the difficult circular cuts of grapes flow from the delicate niches of apples. Each little cut was intentional, and each little cut has its place. The color of the print is done in chine-collé, a process that applies tinted paper, through printing, onto the base print. To hand-color the print would be, by printmaking definition, cheating.
Last year Garzon took a trip to Maui to see Iao Valley, a vista that has been taking breaths for thousands of years. In Garzon’s 9-foot by 4-foot woodcut version of the valley, women lounge in cloud form over the tightly gauged valley. The Iao river, once stopped with the bodies of slain warriors, is alive with real and imagined fish. A confusing valley floor is populated with cuts that almost resemble men, or not men, or simply gashes in wood, transferred onto paper by ink.
For the women in the back room (a metaphor if ever there was one), nudes lounge sexily on the wall. The process for creating these women was a bit less sexy. In his studio, a dirty electric burner slowly melted wax, which the artist used to coat paintings of nude women, and then polished to a patina sheen. Within some of the pieces are human hair, on the naughty bits of course, bound to the underlying work by the melted wax. The resulting pieces look familiar for those of us who are myopic and spend portions of each day sans corrective lenses. Even within a few steps, the paintings are just out of focus enough to stay within the confines of art, not letting viewers see enough to become prurient.
In early 2013, Sergio Garzon is leaving for Germany, the home of the origins of classic printmaking. His artistic ambition has led him to print bigger, more intensely, and will soon send him across the globe. What the viewer is left with in this current showing is a legitimate showing of art, of large proportions but with classic technique. There was no need to reinvent the mediums in order to engage and wow the viewer. The subject matter of the show similarly shows no need innovation. It did not matter to Garzon that countless artists have done exactly what he has done for hundreds of years. Food, women and vistas will always inspire. Garzon rests on his capacity to create in order to keep you engaged, and on the daunting delicacy of his craft.
Garzon has one last ambition before moving to work with the best printmakers in the world. For his latest project, he is doing that most classic of large work: He’s chasing the great whale. He recently purchased 30 feet of carving wood to create a whale that “is a mix of all my favorites” he said. Almost joking about the enormity of carving a life-size juvenile whale, he explained, “The plan is to get a bunch of kids to put the barnacles on, that would be too much for me.”
The Whale does not have a space to be shown yet. When it is shown, it will be impossible to avert your eyes.