Pow! Wow! festival curator Jasper Wong shares a list of muralists to keep an eye on.
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For most, the word Honolulu conjures visions of a Hawaiian paradise—but for artist and curator Jasper Wong, the capital city's lack of culture was enough to drive him to seek his fortune elsewhere. He found it offered neither the creative vibrancy of San Francisco—where he would decamp to study illustration—nor the opportunities to show work in reputable galleries, which he then pursued in Hong Kong.
While in Hong Kong, he noticed the gallery culture was "more about selling work, and less about promoting young artists." Frustrated, he opened Above Second gallery, where his first order of business was hosting an experimental show: he commissioned five artists to create large-scale artworks for a live audience, only for the work to be destroyed afterwards. "We weren't trying to sell work," recalls Wong. "It was just for fun." He called the show Pow! Wow!, emphasizing the communal spirit of an event intended to spark a conversation between the artists and the audience.
Six years later, Pow! Wow! has evolved into an internationally touring outdoor mural festival. with last year's installment making stops in Tokyo, Long Beach, Austin, and three cities in Taiwan (Taipei, Tainan, and Taichung). While the bureaucracy of some city governments make securing clearance to paint on public property a bit tricky, Wong and his team have successfully organized each Honolulu show by simply approaching building owners directly about working with their unused spaces. This year, more than 80 artists—including notables like Kevin Lyons and James Jean—will kick off the year by creating murals throughout downtown Honolulu. Despite the involvement of some bigger names, Wong's focus with Pow! Wow! remains on promoting emerging talent. The festival kicks off today and, to celebrate, Wong gives us his top five artists to look out for (remember, these works aren't the ones in Honolulu, as those haven't been made yet).