Take the Monet and run. A retrospective of work by Ron Genta at the Croissanterie, downtown Honolulu.
Ron Genta may well be the chameleon of the island art world , inherently and exuberantly changeable by nature. Genta's "retrospective" (they get younger all the time) at the Croissanterie reveals a nature basically enamored of making art, a nature quite ingeniously appreciative of other creative sensibilities, often to the point of explicit borrowing - of spirit if not of image.
Though such derivations often create discomfort in the context of Western tradition, they occur here more in the Asian climate of paying homage to masters one acknowledges and reveres.
Thus Genta's allusions of Cezanne, Monet, Motherwell and even Warhol, (he does know how to pick them) are quiet palatable and even inspired. Ron Genta shows his true colors in works which seem truly the products of his own imagination rather than borrowings of pastiches. Of these, "Surf Dogs of Kaimuki" is undoubtedly the most wizardly-of a wonderful zany combination of motifs of popular culture in a matrix of graphic surrealism.
- Marsha Morse / Art Critic, Star Bulletin
Though his studio is on Washington Boulevard, Ron Genta’s art gallery is anywhere gastronomic. The 52-yearold’s “gentafications” (as he calls them) have adorned the walls of local and national eateries for decades (see the pig heads on chalkboards at Nancy’s Bar-B-Q and the black-and-blue stingrays at Clayton’s Siesta Grille in Sarasota). Genta can take the concept of a Tabasco sauce label, enlarge it to painting size, add fiery reds and greens to the lettering, and turn a simple food image into a hanging symbol of Americana. In his powdery sketches, Genta weds the most recognizable culinary and cultural images on multihued canvases, making percolating coffee pots come to life and ears of corn look wildly mouth-watering.
“When I first started doing artwork for restaurants, I realized that 400 people a night were seeing my work, rather than 30 people seeing it for a month in a gallery.” - Ron Genta
“I became more aggressive and started pursuing opportunities to be the resident artist at restaurants, and sell work there and be responsible for the atmosphere of the restaurant. Now I design the interiors of restaurants and do the branding, too.” Genta, who grew up in Naples and graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design, lived in Hawaii for about 20 years, becoming a bigwig in the Honolulu art community. He took private commissions and restaurant design projects while on Oahu, garnering such clients as Caliente del Sol, Formaggio Grill, and Sake Street. “Roy’s opened its first restaurant in Honolulu and I did my first big show there. I did wine labels for him and posters, and that got me started,” Genta says. Since relocating to Sarasota 11 years ago, Genta has exhibited his work at Mattison’s Forty-One, Mozzarella Fella, the Village Café on Siesta Key, Gecko’s Grill and Pub, and Big Water Fish Market, among other hot spots. “My work has a sense of humor about it and it’s accessible. “When I first started doing artwork for restaurants, I realized that 400 people a night were seeing my work, rather than 30 people seeing it for a month in a gallery” It’s all about the marriage of good wine, good food, and good art,” Genta says. “I’m a huge supporter of anything unique and individual, not the same homogenized restaurant designs.” Genta often generates new ideas abroad. His wife, Veronica Genta, is a multilingual flight attendant for Delta Air Lines, so the family, including three daughters (Sofia, 10, Giovanna, 13, and Isabella, 16) travels internationally. “When you travel extensively, you see what progressive restaurants are doing elsewhere,” Ron Genta says. “Coffee shops and breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots have this appetite for good art. When people are spending their money to go out, they want to be transformed.” And Genta has the right recipe for them.BY ABBY WEINGARTEN/PHOTO BY CHAD SPENCER
His art leaps of the walls with a striking force that captures the imagination of all who encounter it. Vividly colored images of flying fish, cows, sumo wrestlers and sushi pop off the canvas. Such a conundrum baffles many art critics and makes it difficult to pigeon hole Genta to any particular genre. How do you classify the art - and the artist? "Some people have called me a graphic designer, some say I am an illustrator, while others prefer the term, 'fine artist'", Genta says. "People feel like they have to put artists into categories." Categorizing Gents is indeed a difficult task. Although the art is local, the artist is not. Originally from Naples, Genta graduated from Ringling School of Art & Design where he studied commercial design to make himself more sale-able. After graduating in 1982 he moved to Hilo on the Big Island where he painted landscapes. To pay the rent he did commercial work such as magazines illustrations and T-shirt design.
Several years ago, he embarked on yet another creative endeavor, quiet by accident. While visiting Honolulu advertising agency to discuss his illustrations a businessman from Japan mistook Genta for a model he was supposed to meet. Not one to miss an opportunity, Genta seized the opportunity, hoping he would not be asked for a portfolio. The case of mistaken identity launched a successful modeling and acting career. Gena has appeared in catalogs, a Wrigley's Double Mint gum commercial - handing the Double Mint gum twins at the beach - Tour of Duty and more recently - Raven. "Acting is a lot of fun.", Genta says in an easy going, unassuming manner. "Since it's not the focus of my life, I can relax and enjoy it. The extra money is nice, too, because I don't have to spend so much fun on commercial projects. Instead, I can devote my creative energy to painting. Genta's magnetic personality combines infectious exuberance with a relentless drive to succeed. This optimism has supported him during hard times, such as when his Kaimuki house caught fire he lost everything - including all artwork. His buoyant enthusiasm and positive attitude are reflected in his work, which like the artist, may have more depth then their cheery facade. This is particularly evident in his recent work, the well received Picket Diptyck, for example, is much more reflective and focused, which defies the arguments of some critics.
"Critics says that my work is too diverse and lacks any sort of focus." he says. "In art school, though. I learned that diversity is the name of the game, the way to survive financially and artistically. If all I did was paint whale after whale, I'd get pretty bored. Being an artist is like being a musician - you don't write the same song over and over again. You've got to constantly expand and try new things; It's part of being an artist. Another part of being an artist is getting your work shown, usually in galleries and museums. Genta, who represents himself to avoid the expenses of an agent, says he prefers to show his work, usually in restaurants and also enjoys commissioned work. "Alot of the local galleries play it too safe, " he says. "Plus, the numbers just aren't there. Restaurants are ideal because more people go out to eat than go to a museum. and since they don't have to sell the art to stay in business, restaurants tend to be more flexible." His work has been seen at such restaurants as Roys, contemporary Museum cafe, Che Pasta, La Salsa, Coffee Talk and many more.
Last year, he introduced some whacky floor and table lamps that feature the same colorful style for which Genta is known. He says they were meant to be gifts for the children of family and friends, but adults have gravitated toward them. Whether you call him an illustrator or an artist, his works are instant pick-me-ups. Flowers, fish and bumble bees are feel good subjects and Ron Genta's quirky interpretations provide the perfect backdrop for any island home.
Ron Genta's exhibit in the Contemporary Museum Cafe, "Livin Large," showcases his talent as a gifted graphic designer. His Boldly colorful aloha shirt paintings are well known in Hawaii. In this exhibit, he shows folded aloha shirt paintings with pineapples and Van Gogh- inspired sunflowers jumping right off the painted "fabric".
" Genta's recent work hints there maybe a painter trying to get out of the illustrator. His "Picket Diptych," for example, is a subtle painting of a picket fence against a muted landscape." - Joan Rose
This work is more expressive than the Aloha Shirt series. Rather than being a facile "quit hit" design, it has a focused - almost meditative - quality. Genta's work tends to be exuberantly inventive - a bit too much so for real depth. He might slow down and examine his responses to sunflowers or pineapples - as he did to these picket fences. - Joan Rose
His art leaps from the walls with a striking force that captures the imagination of all who encounter it. Vivid colors pop off the canvas with an attitude that is larger than life. With a flair for the zany and a knack for nailing icons, he brings a fresh perspective to the art scene.
"With great energy and enthusiasm, Genta customarily weaves his wide ranging interests into a body of work which seems at once to be part homage, part attire, part commentary and part fun."
Ron Genta, a Ringling school alumni, made is home in Hawaii for nearly 20 years and is well known in Honolulu art community for his boldly designed, brightly colored paintings. With great energy and enthusiasm, Genta customarily weaves his wide ranging interests into a body of work which seems at once to be part homage, part attire, part commentary and part fun. This exhibition includes works in which the artist has developed new variations on one of his familiar subjects - the aloha shirt - as well in which he explores his interest in the island landscape, sea life and Hawaiiana.
Works by Genta can be found in private collections nationwide. - Jay Jensen
Pineapple rings swirl into space, and cows jump off Ron Genta's aloha shirt designs, giving the paintings a surrealistic, three dimensional quality. "The idea of painting an aloha shirt is not new, but the themes I embrace are;" says Genta, a Kailua artist whose whimsical design become a trademark of his work. Genta started painting aloha shirts after creating designs for a local textile company. They resembled aloha shirts of the 50's he says, but his had a humorous twist. And while he doesn't mind having his art labeled zany or whimsical, he's quick to point out that alot of thought goes into his work. "whimsical implies that it happened in 20 minutes." he says , "but there's alot more that goes on." Some of his work can be serious, says Genta. "There's alot of variety, and in school that's what they insisted on."
Genta graduated from Ringling School of Art and Design, specializing in commercial art. He has worked as a graphic artist and illustrator, but said he resents being pigeon-holed into one category. "I consider my work diverse." says Genta, surrounded by his work in his studio/gallery. "I don't want to be boxed in. Being an artist is like being a musician - you don't play the same song over and over. Being an artist means evolving , and change is the only thing we can count on." His formal education has given him a foundation "from which to leap," he says. One such leap is Genta's recent fascination with the homely chilli pepper. The hot vegetable appears in a number of his works - in paintings, furniture, lamps and wherever his imagonation takes him. His artistic variations on the chilli pepper have become a fad in the southwest, Genta says. One of his paintings, appropriately call "Señor Caliente," depicts a mustachioed Mexican man with a flaming hat in the shape of a cactus next to several green peppers and a Tabasco Sauce bottle. New Mexico's Chilli Pepper bottle. New Mexico's Magazine printed a photo of the painting, turning Genta into an instant celebrity. Calls and emails started pouring in from Canada and the mainland asking him for a poster. "It sold like mad," he says, adding that he usually doesn't like reproducing originals. He is currently putting the finishing touches on 25 chairs, which will be auctioned at First Night Honolulu on New Year's Eve. The chairs, found at a thrift shop, are each painted and decorated differently and bear the artist's latest signature - a red chilli pepper. Genta's work has been shown in galleries locally and on the mainland and is found in private collections in Hawaii, Florida, California and Japan. A few pieces, including teddybear lamps, are on display in the Magic Attic at Aloha Tower Marketplace. In addition, Foodland Supermarkets sell his note cards, featuring the popular aloha shirt designs. The supermarket chains is giving a box set to Genta's cards to customers who buy atleast $40 in gift certificates. By Janine Tully / Staff Writer
Ron Genta, a Naples native who has attained success in Hawaii as an artist and TV actor, will be headed home soon for his first local one-man art show. Genta's "Island Images" exhibit, which will be featured in the 21st Hibiscus Center, will be introduced with an exotic public reception - "Tropic Latitudes" according to Milda Valvada, gallery co-founder. Genta a 1978 Naples High graduate, moved to Hawaii after graduating from Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota, where he studied painting, illustration and graphic design. "Ron has since gained increasing recognition in the island world," Valvada said, he's had several successful one man shows there, and his work hangs in many private and corporate collections.
And... although Genta's first love is art, she said, he's also been pursuing an equally successful acting career in Hawaii that includes roles in "Tour of Duty" - the CBS series about the War in Vietnam - the miniseries "Blood and Orchids" "Magnum PI", "Murder She Wrote", "T.J. Hooker and numerous other national TV commercials for clients such as Wrigley's Doublemint Gum. Genta's local art show, Valvada says, will showcase his most recent work, which is entitled "Island Images." "It embraces a broad range of expression and eclectic inspiration". - Bunnie Nichols / Close up