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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki WHEN and WHERE did Melanesian art enter Polynesian Pop?
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WHEN and WHERE did Melanesian art enter Polynesian Pop?
bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11107
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-02-16 11:52 am   Permalink

Inspired by Babalu's recent posts on Papua New Guinea culture, I am posing this question: In America's urban bamboo hideaways of the 30s and 40s, the iconography of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and other Polynesian islands was the dominant style. So when did MELANESIAN artifacts actually become a part of this world? It all seems to coincide with the heyday of Tiki, beginning in the late 50s.

I am pegging Trader Vic as the main disseminator of Melanesian art into Poly pop. The T.V.'s logo mask (which all BOT readers know was based on a Covarrubias illustration from the 1946 Museum of Modern Art show)...



...became their icon sometime in the mid and late 50s. I do not recall it being used for their earliest franchises, the 1949 Seattle Outrigger, and the 1951 San Francisco Vic. I first found it in the 1955 Beverly Hilton menu (which also introduced the Maori logo Tiki on its cover):



and the 1958 Savoy Hilton N.Y. menu:



From then on it appeared on their matches...



...and their plates and many other items.

In terms of decor, it was Barney West, who provided most of T.V.'s carvings, whose masks I noticed first at the Portland Trader Vic's, which opened in 1959:



It seems Melanesian decor coincided with the introduction of the A-frame, which of course was inspired by PNG/Palau architecture.

Of course, Bob and Leroy were there too, literally, with their rite of passage trip to Papua New Guinea in 1960:



I also believe that the 1954 book "Oceanic Art", which was used by Bob & Leroy and so many Poly Pop artists of the time, played an important role and was a main reason PNG art infiltrated Tiki temples.

So I call upon the gods of paper ephemera (that'll be you Sabu, DC, etc...): What other examples of PNG art can you find from the Tiki period in

A.) Graphic design, and
B.) Tiki temple decor in situ

AND, I am especially curious: Do you have any examples of the use of PNG art in PRE-Tiki times? (30s- early 50s ?)

Also, all the Mai Kai afficionados (Gator Rob, Swanky, Kiliki, etc..): What Barney West and other PNG examples can you share from there....and, here's the challenge, can you DATE their introduction?


 
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Kaiwaza
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Joined: Aug 06, 2003
Posts: 460
From: Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Posted: 2010-02-16 12:08 pm   Permalink

Not to be stupid, but, wouldn't have Melanesian art basically been part of "Poly pop" since the beginning? After all, Bali Hai is a Melanesian island..the inspiration anyway, and much WWII fighting was in Melanesia, so artifacts would have been brought home. I'm not even sure most American did (or do) even know the difference between Poly and Melanesia.

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11107
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-02-16 12:47 pm   Permalink

For discussing this subject, it is helpful to review this chart from the Book of Tiki:



...plus the BOT's chapters 5 and 6, and the Trader Vic chapter, which shows how the menu covers changed from pre-Tiki Poly Pop to Tiki Poly pop.
Also, in "Tiki Modern", chapter 5 and 6 deal with the same subject.


 
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christiki295
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Joined: Apr 09, 2003
Posts: 3811
From: LA-2547 mls east Hawaii &5500 Easter Is
Posted: 2010-02-16 12:49 pm   Permalink

My late dad was in PNG in WWII, which may anecdotaly corroborate that timeline.

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11107
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-02-16 12:53 pm   Permalink

...which was discussed in that OTHER thread, below. Would be great if you can find any photos of him for it!

http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=35520&forum=1&6

Quote:

On 2010-02-15 15:39, bigbrotiki wrote:
The average G.I. did not have the artistic interest and eye to appreciate the artifacts. The influence of PNG art on Tiki style hails mostly from the primitive art appreciation by museums and art dealers that I describe in Tiki Modern.




[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2010-02-16 13:01 ]


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11107
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-02-17 12:17 am   Permalink

C'mon guys....nobody wants to play?

Quote:

On 2010-02-16 11:52, bigbrotiki wrote:
I call upon the gods of paper ephemera (that'll be you Sabu, DC, etc...): What other examples of PNG art can you find from the Tiki period in

A.) Graphic design, and
B.) Tiki temple decor in situ

AND, I am especially curious: Do you have any examples of the use of PNG art in PRE-Tiki times? (30s- early 50s ?)

Also, all the Mai Kai afficionados (Gator Rob, Swanky, Kiliki, etc..): What Barney West and other PNG examples can you share from there....and, here's the challenge, can you DATE their introduction?



 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-02-17 12:26 am   Permalink

I am assembling my images I need to photograph one in daylight that's too big to scan.

_________________


 
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GatorRob
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Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1770
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2010-02-17 08:49 am   Permalink

Regarding the Mai-Kai, I haven't seen anything to indicate there was very much New Guinea art or New Guinea-inspired art prior to their major expansion in 1970. As you know, now there is the New Guinea dining room:



This drawing dates to the 1970 expansion when Tonga, Bangkok, Moorea and Tahiti were added (Tonga being space that was previously occupied by the Surf Bar). That expansion also enlarged the Molokai Bar and kitchen, and added the outdoor gardens and lagoon and the chinese ovens. But although the New Guinea room space existed prior to the expansion, it was reconfigured into basically what it is today. I do not know if it contained any PNG art prior to 1970.

We've talked about the New Guinea-inspired winged carving that originally was located inside and is now (at least the lower half of it) in the outdoor gardens. That tiki dates back to the late 50s, possibly even the opening of the Mai-Kai in '56. It can be seen in this photo (can't remember who originally posted these):



and just barely in this one:



And then there is also this huge New Guinea-inspired carving that once stood outside fronting the road next to the sign (what a sight that must have been!):



This zoomed in partial photo comes from a post from definitedoll and she states it was taken in 1967. I don't know when that tiki first entered the scene. I've seen one other picture of it, but it's not dated.


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11107
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-02-17 11:32 am   Permalink

Great info, thank you Rob. Funny how small the Mai Kai seems compared to its "backstage". An how simple the Surf Bar was.

It'll be hard to peg the changes in decor without eyewitnesses (the Thorntons, George Nakashima, etc), but it seems because of Barney West there was some early PNG stuff present. He definitely used that 1946 Arts of the South Seas book, after all the cover became his logo (see BOT). But most of it seems to have appeared AFTER the 50s. I wonder if Will Plugger has had any indication of when those molds were made. Maybe Oceanic Arts has dated records of items ordered.


 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-02-17 8:47 pm   Permalink

I'm afraid my first post on the subject is just going to reinforce Bigbro's original proposition. Instead of showing Melanesian examples in Pre-Tiki Poly-pop, I'll offer a few reasons why they seem to be largely absent. Hopefully we can find some exceptions later.

First, three examples of Pre-Tiki Poly-Pop:

Don The Beachcomber's map of a South Seas Paradise leaves out New Guinea and Melanesia:



Trader Vic's first map (Oakland Era) is even simpler:



And the Matson Line Cruises of the 1930s did not go there:





New Zealand; Yes. Pago-Pago; Yes. Hawaii & Tahiti; Yes. In the picture above, notice the Lyre Bird of Australia, but no spectacular New Guinea Bird-of-Paradise. These are the islands tamed by the missionaries. Idyllic and peaceful with white sands, palm trees, and lovely maidens. New Guinea offered tribal warfare, mangrove swamps, head-hunters and leeches. It hadn't been tamed yet.

Covarrubias shows Melanesia on his maps of the 40s:



But that's natural because he's presenting an ethnographic point-of-view and Melanesia is culturally fascinating. But South Sea bars and South Sea cruises were selling escapism and I think Melanesia might have been just a little too dark and too dangerous for them. Later, the tiki bars embraced their primal imagery but maybe in the 30s and 40s it wasn't readily available to a Trader and a Beachcomber traveling the world.

In other words, maybe Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber first used what was most handy - decor from the islands people actually traveled to (via Matson Lines and others). Later, looking for new sources, they eventually incorporated PNG decor from books and museum collections. Just a theory - feel free to poke holes in it.



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[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-02-17 22:14 ]


 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-02-18 12:02 am   Permalink

Another indicator might be which restaurant was the first to use the New Guinea A-Frame.




Trader Vic's Oakland - no A-frame:



Trader Vic's San Francisco - no A-frame:



Trader Vic's Chicago - First New Guinea-style A-frame:



Trader Vic's New York - New Guinea to the hilt:



Even though the San Fran location on Cosmo Place didn't have an A-frame, it might have been the first to use the New Guinea logo. Here's a photo of Vic at Cosmo Place with the newly-carved logo:



And the San Francisco menu might have been the first to use PNG imagery:



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[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-02-18 00:28 ]


 
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virani
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 17, 2003
Posts: 1438
From: Volcanic area of France
Posted: 2010-02-18 06:09 am   Permalink

I think in the first half century, tiki restaurants wanted to show what people would dream of, and well, I think they dreamed about polynesia because of the stories of the islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, the wahines...
And Melanesia was more of the unknown, savage, and, well, black people, so less attractive to a lot.
I think segregation has a lot to do with this, and restaurant owner didn't want to make customers think they would go to a cannibal theme restaurant.


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4252
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-02-18 10:31 am   Permalink

I am catching up on this one a little late, some how missed Bigbro's first request for info. Nice work as usual Sabu, I like the architectural tie in. Certainly seems as though the PNG architecture was incorporated before the art.

Here are a couple other examples.

This is a great shot of the exterior of a Butlin's Beachcomber that used the PNG architectural style and art on the exterior.



Also the Bali Hai at Pontchartrain Beach in New Orleans.



You can see a PNG style shield on the back wall of the Bali Hai next to the mural.



The Bali Hai dates from the 1960s.

Will have to peruse my files to see if I can find some art work.

DC


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4252
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-02-18 11:36 pm   Permalink

I think that the PNG art style may have been embraced more readily as a Tiki theme by other countries. This is a good example from Canada to go with the Beachcomber photo from England.



DC


 
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Babalu
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Joined: Nov 19, 2006
Posts: 2505
From: Lemon Grove
Posted: 2010-02-19 10:22 am   Permalink

Wow, keep up the great work you guys...this is some really interesting stuff. You got my "favorite thread" vote for the day

 
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