On exhibit: Works by Clayton Amemiya, Lamerol Gatewood showcased at East Hawaii Cultural Center

  • Photo by ANDRZEJ KRAMARZ Clayton Amemiya, left, speaks with a visitor to his wood fired ceramics exhibit and “The Energy Series” exhibit by Lamerol Gatewood at the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo.

  • Photo by ANDRZEJ KRAMARZ Items on display as part of Clayton Amemiya’s wood fired ceramics exhibit at the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo.

  • Photo by ANDRZEJ KRAMARZ Clayton Amemiya, right, speaks with visitors to his wood fired ceramics exhibit and “The Energy Series” exhibit by Lamerol Gatewood at the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo.

The current exhibition at East Hawaii Cultural Center, on display through Aug. 31, brings together two artists with distinctly different backgrounds, experiences and formal and technical approaches to work and media.

A more unlikely pairing would be hard to come by anywhere in the world.

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H​idden away in the hills of Waiakea Uka above Hilo, Clayton Amemiya​ has been producing wood-fired ceramics for more than 30 years. The interaction of traditional Japanese pottery-making techniques and the effects of 100 hours of firing using ohia, lychee, kiawe, eucalyptus and pine generate works that are at once reflective of ancient traditions, yet uniquely “of Hawaii.”

His kiln, an anagama (tunnel kiln), consumes more than 2 cords of wood in a long firing, producing fly ash that coats parts of the finished pots in a natural glaze. Rubbings of oxide powders such as cobalt, copper and manganese on some vessels interact with the wood ash, creating areas of blue, purple, black and green. At times, the intensity of the firing accumulates expressionistic ash rivulets down vessel surfaces.

Most of the pots in this exhibition were fired in the past three years, many of them two or three times, thus exposing the clay to 300 hundred hours in the kiln. The pots evolve with each firing. Carved lines and grooves in their surfaces are reminiscent of patterns in lava and sand, the Hawaii Island environment, a ubiquitous influence in the work.

Amemiya studied with the late master potter Seisho Kandiyohi of Okinawa in the mid-1970s, and has fired an anagama for the past 25 years. He has exhibited in the U.S., Japan and China, and his works are included in public and private collections in the U.S., East Asia and Europe.

W​ith paper, scissors, glue, paint, charcoal, pastel, acrylic, glitter, oil bars and other media, Lamerol Gatewood​ orchestrates a world view in his body of “The Energy Series” works. The juxtaposition of elements, according to the artist, was shaped in a two-phased cauldron of black experience initiated in St. Louis, Mo., through exposure to Jim Crow, Hard Bop and free jazz improvisation, then deepened during his decades of living and working in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The artist’s exuberant full-stop forward process simultaneously drives an aesthetic that savors all possibilities, including collapse. Everything here is at risk.

Gatewood’s relentless visual conversation delineates a response to the NYC area experience that is explosively raw and emotive. His New York is unrestrained by the formalism and primary color limit that bind Piet Mondrian’s 1942-43 “Broadway Boogie Woogie.”

This series of works on paper is executed with an ethos not so far removed from the monochromatic three-dimensional wood assemblages of the late American sculptor Louise Nevelson, who also claimed “energy makes energy.” Gatewood, in this presentation, commands a free zone of visual expression.

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In his navigation of a path forward, Gatewood states, “… my best work (is created) as I meditate about the global black experience in the modern world while immersing myself in the sounds of jazz and African Diasporic music.”

The EHCC gallery is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.