Work by Matthew H. James and (bottom) ‘Between Dead and Dying'  ANTON GLAMB PHOTOS

Work by Matthew H. James and (bottom) ‘Between Dead and Dying’ ANTON GLAMB PHOTOS


Last weekend, my sister was in town visiting, and I got to catch up with her about this and that. She married her high school sweetheart about a year and a half ago, after they had dated for more than 15 years. He had just started a new job, and she had some vacation miles to burn, so I got to spend some quality time and take her around to some events and happenings around town. One of the events she was looking forward to was Matthew H. James’ exhibit opening at Kaka‘ako Agora.

Matt is a locally grown artist who has gone big, both in scope and format. After getting his BFA at Pratt Institute, he’s been awarded several high-profile residencies and commissions, including an appointment by the U.S. Embassy in Iceland and being commissioned by celebrity designer Vera Wang. In the years that I’ve known him, he has always had a humble vibe that’s just the right amount of confidence and pride, without spilling over into arrogance or condescension. He’s quick to beam a smile or hold a conversation.

His work is as fancy as his reputation, with a striking polish that looks high-art and expensive. The Agora show featured his resin paintings that are, on the most basic level, a series of swirls and colors. However, there is a science to their composition and medium. His work captures a spirit of innate wonder and imagination, almost as a child gazing into a marble. Tackling inspiration from the universe, science and medicine, his paintings are evocative without being literal or obvious.


The size of his work is impressive, with the smallest being 2×4 and the largest at 10×12. Within each painting, his eye takes on an equally varied sense of scale and space — some paintings seem to be zoomed in under a microscope, while others explode with detail, as if you’re looking through the completed TMT at a distant galaxy being born.

It was a great start to an evening.

I also got to check out the closing of Max Field, Alex Singer and Caleb Taosaka’s Between Dead and Dying at Hound and Quail. If you missed it, get your Google on and try to find some pictures or video. It was one the most raw installations I’ve seen in Hawaii, with a throwback to the early ‘90s MTV skate aesthetic that filled the whole room, and a VHS video feed showing you looking at the work — and take a beer from right out of the TV screen you were looking into. Can’t wait for more work from these guys.