By Amanda Juico Dela Cruz
The month began with a historic election. It was a game-changer for how the country would move forward after being crippled by the pandemic and by decades of oligarchic politics. The first two exhibitions in the list challenge the discernment of the Filipino people and the collective memories that are revised, denied, and forgotten. Artists take art as a tool for revolution further as another two of which criticize the socio-political issues concerning the environment and the people’s security. One artist tests the malleability of the form. And concluding the list is a hopeful reminder of how humans survive tragedies and disasters.
Abril Valdemoro, Cedrick Dela Paz, Christopher Yap, Denmark Dela Cruz, Fernan Odang, Jojit Solano, Mark Laza, and Tamer Karam. “Takipsilim: Loaded 2”. Eskinita Art Gallery.
Stolen tarpaulins bearing Marcos Jr. are assembled parallel to Marcos Sr.’s bust-molded black candles, red wax bleeds from inside out. A portrait of Imelda in butterfly sleeves, hair groomed, ear adorned with a pearl, but skin rotting in excruciating detail. The other works confront the grim reality of the Filipinos: sickness and death, manipulation and division, sweet nothings and empty promises, and happy childhood stolen. The late Dictator’s son and namesake presumptively won the presidential election with thirty-one million votes, as of the time of writing. Artists’ role as the vanguards of social justice is more crucial now than ever.
Pio Abad. “Fear of Freedom Makes Us See Ghosts”. Ateneo Art Gallery.
An enlarged replica of Anastacio Caedo’s Malakas at Maganda awaits by the gallery’s entrance. Then there’s a photograph of the artist’s parents inside the Malacañang Palace posing before a painting depicting the Dictator as Malakas. Old Master paintings reproductions and fine jewelry reconstructions are the centerpieces of the gallery. Regency-era silverware and Staffordshire porcelain prints, and Louis IV-style furniture drawings line the walls. Book covers of the Dictator’s manifestos reduced to forms and colors pop out of the black wall. Each piece reveals the complexities of the crimes committed now desensitized by the collective terms loot, plunder, and ill-gotten wealth.
Robert Langenegger. “Conceptual Monoculture Is Not Your Friend”. Underground.
A chicken with its skin distressingly red from being defeathered is giving birth to a featherless chicken only to be slaughtered at a tender age. A human is crucified, skinned, surrounded by farm animals—a reverse display of a typical scene in a slaughterhouse. On the wall is a fork, a slasher, a spade, also a sickle, but all the tools are relieved of their handles. They are relieved of their being functional. The works are a criticism against the Green Revolution and its being end-product-driven, but also a meditation on conceptual art and its emphasis on the process of artmaking.
Victor Balanon. “Strange Attractors”. West Gallery.
In one of the works there is a man in suit reading a burning broadsheet seemingly unbothered by its danger. The woman sitting beside him seems to be equally unconcerned, or completely apathetic. In another work there is a young figure casually browsing through files of folders as if browsing through a collection of vinyl. Beside is pile after pile of television sets. Both scenes depicting the man in suit and the young figure look as if they are viewed through a surveillance camera. In another piece, which is the only work in the exhibition considerably colored, there is a man wearing heavily tinted sunglasses in steampunk frames. Despite the opacity, there is violence in his look.
Ivan Acuña. “Platinum”. Altro Mondo Creative Space.
Thick layers of acrylic paint were applied on wood. The strokes were systematic yet uninhibited and were thought-out yet intuitive. The choice of colors exploded in a harmonious waltz. All these considerations in applying impasto technique made the abstract expressionist works alive, moving, dancing. Platinum was melted and skillfully applied as accents, making the already fancied works more dazzling. As a result, there is a sense of rarity and of preciousness being felt as one marvels at the opulence of the works.
JJ Jarin. “Stable Are The Roots That Anchor The Whole”. Blanc Gallery.
On one canvas is a palm tree engulfed in flames. On two other canvases are also palm trees—one is kept indoors and is planted into a pot that fell to its side, while the other is kept at the rooftop—both growing towards the direction of light. At the foundation of these three works and the others is the attempt to understand human lived experiences through trees as a symbol of growth that is bounded by spatio-temporal reality. Palm trees mirror how humans are in difficult times: one survives for as long as one holds on to its roots.