Friday, August 26, 2011

Turnips & Technology: Hui No’eau Solo Artist Exhibition Review By Lily Diamond

What do turnips and high tech have in common? Hui No’eau’s June-July 2011 Solo Artist Exhibition reveals an interstitial space between the two, given meaning by humanity, culture, and consumerism. Scott Groeniger’s sparse yet eloquent digiscapes in “Welcome to the New Lifestyle” are the perfect high note to Sidney Yee and Kevin Omuro’s earthy exploration, “I TURNED TO THE TURNIP.” While the two exhibits initially seem an odd pair—the country turnips bumping up against the digital artistry of the über modern—their contrast is ultimately fruitful.

Groeniger’s world is one of numbers, industry, technology, cartoon faces, smoke stacks, fighter jets, fast food, and the crumbling emblems of Chinese culture. Archival pigment prints and collages—composites of past and future set on an insistently digitized canvas—question the decaying remnants of a societal structure that may or may not be sustainable. Groeniger demands that we pay attention, answer to the hard numbers of our consumption (in the “Take Notice of Safe” series and “Broken Grid”), and the endless tickertape of money, gas, war, religion, and relationship (“40-60#4” series). Even the empty space between planes, smoke stacks, and buddhas feels claustrophobic, burdened by a longing for answers or an end to the ongoing trail of numbers that leads us, however messily, into the melee of global consciousness.

“The Ping Yao Continuum” video and sound installation perpetuates Groeniger’s incisive portrayal of cultural behavior. A one-hour family luncheon is reversed and slowed to one-hour eighteen minutes; accompanied by a calming electronic music soundtrack, the piece becomes a nearly robotic still life. The human interaction loses its sharp vivacity, each rise and fall of arm or chopstick becoming machine-like in its reverie. Characteristically, even this most human element of “Welcome to the New Lifestyle” is more technology than flesh and blood.

By contrast, Yee and Omuro’s “I TURNED TO THE TURNIP” offers an appropriately rootsy complement to Groeniger’s heady work. The three dimensional, earthen, tactile qualities of Omuro’s stoneware and porcelain turnips and daikons—and their direct connection to an Asian legacy of food, culture, place, and family—suggests a playful examination of this oft-overlooked root. Omuro presents a plethora of variations, from “Our Potential Inside,” a burgeoning explosion of baby turnip eggs, to the “From the Ground Up” series, in which the artist’s form breaks with tradition and expectation.

The steady yet subtle progression of Yee’s turnip portraiture alternately placates and surprises the viewer. Newspaper layered with paint speaks to us of history embedded in the soil that grows the food we eat. In the “Conforming Turnips” series and beyond, a complex question about conformity and individuality, whiteness and otherness, emerges. “Not There There, But There” is Yee’s ghostly paean to the intersection of food and humanity, featuring a chorus of transparent turnips weaving in and out of a peopled city street.

From Hawaii to China to the liminal space of hypertechnology, these two exhibits work together to point a way forward while looking back, an attempt to integrate history, culture, and progress in a fluid, contemporary identity.

Lily Diamond was raised on Maui and works as a freelance writer and editor in San Francisco. She is co-founder of Write to Wellbeing™, and author of the forthcoming memoir The End: A Mother-Daughter Love Story. Visit

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