Freestyle: Pancho Abalos mines history for urban art

May. 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

A line drawing by Pancho Abalos. (Courtesy photo)

A line drawing by Pancho Abalos. (Courtesy photo)


It’s the warm season in Hawaii already, even if we haven’t reached summer solstice yet, and you can feel it, with outdoor activities heating up and plenty of parties on the horizon.

In the midst of all this action, I’d like to clue you in to something that may be less well known, but should be on your radar: an opening party for a summer art exhibition by Honolulu urban artist Pancho Abalos, set for Saturday, June 2 at the Ing Direct Cafe in Waikiki (with valet parking, FYI).

Abalos has been a force on the urban art scene for years, with showcase exhibits at Prototype, Ong King and The ARTSmith, among others. His inspiration is not only the wild, colorful world of graffiti, but the dynamic imagery of martial and courtly figures in Japan, including Ninja, geisha, and the woodblock prints of Japan ‘s Edo Period. It makes for an intriguing mashup, with intricate detailing that can definitely stop you in your tracks.

There’s no mistaking Abalos’ work for antique imagery, as most of his figures are wearing kicks. “As a sneaker-head at heart, by throwing a pair of kicks on a ninja or a geisha, I’m simply putting my own spin on something that I already revere. It’s my way of paying tribute,” he says.

Born in Quezon City, Philippines, Abalos grew up in Kapolei and Ewa, graduated from Campbell High and studied graphic design on the mainland. He’s been featured by the Ground Up Movement and Scion here in Honolulu, and has also exhibited in L.A., San Francisco and Japan, as part of the Heavy Hitters artists tour.

Abalos has been showcasing his interpretation of the Edo period and culture since 2010.

Abalos at work. (Photo by Juan Rivera, Aloha Hype)

Abalos at work. (Courtesy Juan Rivera/Aloha Hype)

This new show, “Tributes,” is “all about paying homage to something personally meaningful to you by putting our own interpretation and spin on it,” Abalos said, in an artist’s statement.

Abalos will showcase his new works, but it’s also important that his exhibition helps support art in public schools; along with Abalos’ own work, this is an opportunity to see original art by West Oahu high school student artists.

Saturday’s opening event includes a silent auction to benefit the Hawaii Arts Alliance and arts programs in participating schools.

The exhibit is up Friday, June 1 through June 30, with an opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 2 at ING Direct Cafe, 1958 Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki. This art event is going to be a party, with music by DJ Yogurt, aka James Yamilao of Kapolei. Check Abalos out on Facebook and on Twitter.

Roll Call:

» Kudos to Honolulu Pulse blogger Jermel-Lynn Quillopo for her detailed post on “QUEENSUPREME,” a festival of hip-hop with women up front, coming up Saturday, June 2, at Fresh Cafe and Loft in Space. Her interviews with the artists and take on the event were great! We’ll be running a version of Quillopo’s post in print Friday in TGIF.

“QUEENSUPREME” headlines Rocky Rivera, Hopie and Dice, all West Coast rappers who’ve got it going on. MaryAnne Ito, a neo-soul performer from Honolulu, is on the bill, too, along with several other Hawaii acts.

A few weeks back, I talked to Riana Stellburg, who along with Fresh Cafe owner and hip-hop head Tiffany Tanaka is making “QUEENSUPREME” happen. Stellburg has been hustling all over town to get the word out. She said she felt Honolulu’s hip-hop scene is on the verge of something bigger, with new faces appearing at clubs and more people turning out to hear what’s new.

Stellburg and her promotions persona, Rudified Media, want you to know that women are an essential part of hip-hop, and that’s what “QUEENSUPREME” is about.

“The whole point is to celebrate women in urban art,” Stellburg said. “Before I started this project, I only knew of a handful of women in hip-hop, but now the list is getting longer.”

Mine too! I’d heard Hopie and Rocky Rivera, and now I’m so thankful that Rudified has made me aware of Dice. I love her style.

After listening to some music by this Seattle artist online and broadcasting my admiration on Twitter, I connected by phone with this warm, creative and soulful singer and rapper.

“If I succeed in the industry, I’m going to do it on my terms,” she told me.

Dice has performed in Hawaii before, and credits Honolulu with a strong hip-hop scene. Listen up when she comes back to town.

“The thing that matters to me, ultimately, in music? If it moves you, it’s done its job,” she said.

Jump on it now and get discounted advance tickets for QueenSupreme, $30, or VIP tickets for $40 that include a chance to meet the headliners, goodie bags with special, stylish gifts and a meal at Fresh Cafe. Presale tickets are available until Friday at Prototype (Ala Moana and Pearlridge), The Firm, Noteworthy, In4mation, The Human Imagination, Fresh Cafe and Sindication. E-mail for more details.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

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