bRian Linares is like a walking encyclopedia of the history of contemporary art in Hawaii. Filled to the brim with insight into art and a desire to share it, Linares is the founder, curator and tour guide of Exhibition Grid. Before the pandemic, he led groups of art enthusiasts on walking tours of downtown Honolulu, where a significant amount of public art can be found. “Exhibition Grid is a compass for work and study and a hopeful interdisciplinary adventure tour to find or inform about contemporary and modern art in Hawai’i,” says Linares. He partnered with 88 Blocks earlier this year with sold-out walking tours for the opening weekend of the Hawai’i Triennial. Following the popular tours, the Hawaii State Art Museum partnered with Exhibition Grid to produce 10 exclusive Instagram reels highlighting public sculptures in the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture and the Arts’ Art in Public Places collection around O’ahu.
The virtual tour format allows Linares to reach a wider audience and connect people to the artwork in a different way. This digital collaboration with HiSAM launched this week and will continue until November. You can go to @hawaiistateartmuseum on Instagram and tap the bell icon in the top right to get notified of new posts, including new drums every week. Be on the lookout for private art tours with Exhibition Grid starting before the end of the year.
HONOLULU Magazine: Where does your passion for sharing art with others come from?
Brian Linares: Memories of riding into town early for school from Kailua to head to the Makiki/Tantal hills and eventually finding artwork in libraries, schools, airports and parks. It’s a shared experience, but I’ve noticed that most people ignore or behave differently with work. A testament to being a little nīele, which according to e-hawaii.com translates to nosy, inquisitive and curious. Pay attention to the random object: it answers you with context and connection, or find the name of the creator or the title of the work. You already live with this object on the way to your usual route and you can stop and find out more.
HM: What is your philosophy on public art?
BL: Live with art to understand who we are as complex people. Look at all the artwork like the people of Hawaii, with aloha. Everyone has a story and everyone has different ideals.
HM: How did this collaboration with Exhibition Grid and HiSAM come together?
BL: While working in various art galleries and an experimental contemporary art gallery, I always wanted to see a tour of the type exploring art in public space. I shared this with the Art in Public Places team a while ago. Their fantastic community collaborator, Ali Ishikuni (director of Mori, Bās Bookshop and Art + Flea), knew what I was interested in producing. Fortunately, Creative Digital Media saved the idea in a custom assignment. A terrible way to thank the digital addiction to pandemic lockdown we had to deal with.
HM: You are very knowledgeable about public art here in Honolulu and local art history. Where did you learn all this information?
BL: I ask the collectors of these works of art, also because most are in public places. A library card is the most effective service for familiarizing yourself with these works. Also browsing sites and posts from sfca.hawaii.gov, Laura Ruby (writer, educator and artist) and many other Honolulu artwork map makers.
HM: What are your three favorite pieces of public art and why? And will they all be included in the virtual tours?
BL: Such a cruel question (full sarcastic voice), but honestly, I haven’t made up my mind, especially since I haven’t experienced them myself. But so far, a Thomas Woodruff piece titled “Carolina” on the front lawn of Maui High School; all members of Metcalfe Castle; all Solomon Enos, Isamu Noguchi, John Koga, Laura Ruby. Look, now you make me feel like an art snob. Next question please lol.
HM: What would you like people to take away from your virtual tours?
BL: Get out there, look at the works, share space with them, and read about their form and purpose. Let it test you and let you feel good after a hard day. See what you recognize from a past moment or feeling that you felt most alive. Now that we have smartphones and tablets, it’s becoming more accessible for them to walk/ride/run/drive.
HM: Anything else you want to add?
BL: I love the scattershot method of seeing the art here in Hawaii. I hope you all do too.
For more information on art tours with Exhibition Grid, follow @exhibition_grid or go to exhibition network.com. For more information about the Art in Public Places program visit sfca.hawaii.gov/art-in-public-places-program. I follow @hawaiistateartmuseum on Instagram.
LIsa Shiroma is a correspondent for HiSAM and is an artist and art educator. Lisa is the former owner of the museum gallery store HiSAM, which she ran with partners Ali Ishikuni-Sasaki and Travis Sasaki of Mori by Art + Flea from 2017 to June 2020.