Ian Kuali’i’s site-specific cut vinyl installation, Monument/ Pillar, interrogates, deconstructs and reconstructs the practice of monument making. Monuments are often tied to acts of violence, the colonization of a people and corruption of the land. The two large-scale works were commissioned for the arches in the Heard Museum’s Dennis H. Lyon Family Gallery. One of the works depicts King Kamehameha III, who reigned over the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1825 to 1854. The second work is positioned upside-down and renders the likeness of James Cook, the British explorer, cartographer and captain in the Royal Navy who was the first European settler to travel to the Hawaiian Islands. Kuali’i creates tension by situating King Kamehameha adjacent to James Cook. Additionally, by inverting Cook, Kuali’i forces viewers to consider their perspective as they walk by the archway to enter the adjacent gallery.
Ian Kuali’i is a multidisciplinary self-taught artist of Hawaiian/Apache ancestry whose career spans two decades working in murals, large-scale cut paper, prints, and site-specific installations. While trying to simplify his technique as a graffiti writer, he discovered stenciling and realized an appreciation of the “cut” more than the paint, thus finding his preferred medium of hand-cut paper. From a single sheet of paper using an X-ACTO blade as his tool, his hand-cut paper portraits, journal entries and scenes are masterfully rendered with a blend of loose urban contemporary techniques and collaged found materials. He describes his creative process as “The meditative process of destroying to create.” His work is a balance between “the rough and the delicate” while exploring ideas of modern progress, biodiversity and the foundation of one’s own history.