Words by Jonathan Olabre; Photos courtesy of Lloyd Tronco
The upcoming Magnificent September Auction 2020 of León Gallery which takes place on Sept. 19, at 2 p.m., is a unique auction in the sense that it unearths some pleasant surprises and discoveries. Yes, there are works by the usual names found in high level auctions. Works by names such as Joya, H.R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, and Arturo Luz.
Amidst the work of these National Artists, it is interesting to find a piece by an artist who also circulated among those mentioned above yet not as known to many in the 21st century world of Philippine art.
Right there in the first few pages, shown serendipitously next to a work by Charlie Co, whom we all know hails from Negros, is another Negros artist who presents a very unique style, quite ahead of his time.
The name of the artist is Larry Tronco. While not too many have heard of his name, Larry Tronco belonged to a unique set of artists who were sent on scholarship to Madrid, Spain in the 1950s. His compatriots in Madrid then were Cesar Legaspi and Arturo Luz.
As we delve into the interesting abstract work of Larry Tronco, dated 1972, we find that Larry Tronco was one of the Philippine Art Gallery artists. Tronco hails from Kabankalan in Negros Occidental and first went to the University of the Philippines to study fine arts. At UP Manila, he found himself as part of that illustrious class which included Juvenal Sanso, Larry Alcala, and Celia Diaz-Laurel (another Negrense).
As the University of the Philippines moved to a new and sprawling campus in Diliman, Quezon City, Tronco felt that the new UP campus was too far from all that was happening in the City of Manila. Thus he moved to the University of Sto. Tomas in his second year. At the UST, he was the art director of the Varsitarian and worked alongside his good friend, J. Elizalde Navarro.
A new chapter began when Tronco was sent on a scholarship to Madrid by the Spanish Government along with Cesar Legaspi and Arturo Luz, where he earned a Certificate in Color and Composition at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. There, his distinction as an artist was noticed when he won the Primer Premio, in the Semana Filipina Art Exhibit in Madrid.
Upon returning to the campus and graduating with a Fine Arts degree, he took a teaching post at the university, teaching under the Director of Fine Arts, and National Artist, Victorio Edades. Some of his students who are noted abstractionists today include Raul Isidro and Justin (Tiny) Nuyda.
Tronco was not only well known in the nascent Philippine art circle of the 1950s, he was also an admired art director in the leading ad agencies at the time such as AdMakers, Dentsu, Hontiveros and Associates and J. Walter Thompson. It was there where he apprenticed in the field of advertising art. In an interview, Raul Isidro recalls his first big break in the world of advertising art, a Pepsi Cola account, and how it was Larry Tronco who guided him on it. It was this discipline in advertising that taught him to make good compositions in future paintings.
Tronco’s participation in exhibits are numerous. He had one-man shows at the Casino Español and Hidalgo Gallery and in 1972 the year of this painting, he came home to Negros for a one-man exhibit in Silay City.
The beloved artist-professor’s abstract works are notable contributions in the field of Philippine nonrepresentational art. The current piece on auction at Leon Gallery is a testament to his artistic genius in composition and color selection, and his unique skill using the airbrush at a time when airbrushing was uncommon. The work also displays how he has influenced his students, celebrated names today such as Oscar Salita, Isidro, Tiny Nuyda, and many others, with his attention to expressive qualities of color and his abstractionist eye.
Lloyd Tronco, his son who is also an artist, describes his father’s abstract techniques as “more gentle and calculated” which is highly apparent in this particular work.