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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pushing Philippine Art

Pushing Philippine Art
KRIPOTKIN By Alfred A. Yuson
Philippine Star, March 02, 2009 (Monday)

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Daniel de la Cruz’s metal sculpture, “Tai Chi”

There’s a continuing explosion of talent in our visual arts, with a proliferation of young painters quickly establishing themselves among our purveyors of highly saleable commodities.

It might have a lot to do with the real estate boom, with expatriate Pinoys leading the charge in keeping developers and condo agents happy. Notwithstanding the gloom and doom scenarios ushering in an anticipated global recession, leisure estates, countryside and beach resorts, urban condominiums and townhouses rise like mushrooms.

All the walls that go up need art, from copies, cheapos and kitsch to the distinctive if higher-priced paintings by notable and upcoming artists. They are legion and they are good, some in fact no less than great — and I dare say inarguably the best in the region for sheer volume and variance, let alone dynamism.

The recent exhibit at Manila Contemporary Gallery of post-modern take-offs on the maestro Fernando Amorsolo’s works, some quite cheeky and irreverent, was an entirely effervescent showcase of our young artists’ range of spirit and ideas. It could only affirm that these are fat years indeed for the contemporary art scene in Manila and elsewhere in our islands, from Batanes to Mindanao.

Most art galleries are doing brisk business, reinventing their spaces, or resurrecting themselves, as with Kamalig. In Baguio, the Bencab Museum promises to be an awesome showcase of the National Artist’s works and art and crafts collection. And like him, Arturo Luz, Malang, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Juvenal Sanso and Romulo Olazo, among our innumerable veteran favorites, are still peaking in creativity and consistency.

Our wondrous artists are also making names for themselves abroad, reaping superlative price pick-ups in international auctions. Lydia Velasco’s luminous women works are steadily being snapped up. The fast-rising Ronald Ventura reportedly sold a mural-size painting for P16M pesos abroad. Manuel Ocampo has been the toast of European collectors. Marcel Antonio’s star remains ascendant, with every show selling out to collectors, both local and foreign.

The Singapore Art Museum or SAM keeps stocking up on Philippine art. Dominic Rubio’s distinctively restyled oils of turn-of-the-century subjects draw collectors in Hong Kong. The genius Gabriel Barredo doesn’t even have to step out of his unique residence to rake it in by virtue of sui-generis metal sculpture. Daniel de la Cruz draws raves with his own marvelous produce. Our world-class lady sculptors — Impy Pilpil, Jullie Lluch and Agnes Arellano — continue to dazzle.

Thankfully, a new publication now documents this glorious narrative. Contemporary Art Philippines magazine, a sleek, full-color bi-monthly, bids fair to knock off Hong Kong-based art rags from our bookstore shelves and coffee tables.

Three issues have come out so far, and each one has been outstanding — with superlative photography and design, well-conceived features, and a finely orchestrated, written and edited array of articles. Credit these to publisher and editor-in-chief Jack Teotico and associate publisher and managing editor Tara Sering.

The maiden issue of September to October 2008 has the iconic Bencab on the cover, with the main article focusing in particular on his contributions to printmaking, apart from Philippine art and the community in general. A feature on Federico Aguilar Alcuaz’s years in Barcelona also makes for engrossing reading.

The editor’s note states that the publication’s two-fold vision is “to help bring Philippine art to the world by chronicling artistic milestones and art events in the Philippines as well as those participated in by Philippine artists abroad — gallery exhibits, museum shows, art fairs, auctions, biennials and triennials and other performances.

“Through media partnerships with international art fairs — such as the Art Singapore 2008, Art Expo Malaysia 2008, and many more ... — we hope to reach a wider audience with the good news that is Philippine art.

“Our second goal is to help bring the international art scene to the Filipino public. Although our initial concentration is on the Southeast Asian region, soon we hope to cover more ground to include the art scene in other art capitals of the world: New York, London, Brussels, Paris, Miami, and Istanbul.

“It can’t be said often enough: these are indeed exciting times for Philippine art. A new guard of young Filipino artists is currently making waves in the international art scene (among them, a group of talented young men collectively called Sangviaje), but as contemporary art draws much from the modern masters, it becomes inevitable that we give them their due...”

Thus the major pieces on the veterans, with a loving retrospective look at Onib Olmedo and his “Sweeping Influence” as the cover feature in the second issue, written as a tribute by Teotico himself, a kumpare of the much-loved late artist.

In the third issue, which has poet-rock star Lourd de Veyra doing the cover feature on Ronald Ventura, the young poet-rocker Lilledeshan Bose, freshly back from five years in the States, renders a fine, regally sentimental piece on her late lamented dad Santi Bose.

Aregular section called White Wall “approximates the viewing experience of art” by featuring a different guest curator each time. The first issue has Tina Fernandez putting together a “collection of representative works by some of today’s breakout women artists,” namely Stephanie Ann Lopez, Pam Yan-Santos, Michelle Lim, Marina Cruz Garcia and Sandra Gfeller.

The second issue has art critic and artist Cid Reyes presenting “Embodiments: Aspects of Philippine Sculpture” with the exemplary works of Daniel de la Cruz, Angel Inocentes, Leeroy New, Alma Quinto, Glen Cagandahan and Joel Aionday. In the third issue, art critic Alice Guillermo presents six Social Realist paintings, by stalwarts Pablo Baens Santos, Antipas Delotavo, Jose Tence Ruiz, Mark Justiniani, Manny Garibay, plus the Sakay Collective inclusive of Tutok artists such as Karen Flores.

The latest issue also features the Asian Contemporary Art Fair in New York City as well as the landmark exhibit “Art and China’s Revolution” at the Asian Society Museum which “examined the political developments in post-1949 China and how these helped shape and influence Chinese contemporary art.”

The report is written by the publisher-editor, who started writing as a columnist and contributing editor of the Philippine Collegian, while still earning a Business Economics degree from UP. Upon graduation, Jack worked for the Bancom Group that was engaged in corporate investments and acquisitions, and went on to specialize in agricultural development and international trade negotiations.

Writing about art remained a passion, however, so that Jack frequently contributed articles to Philippine Graphic and Asia-Philippines Leader magazines. He also became an art writer for the then Times Journal and Manila Chronicle before moving on to Manila Times and Lifestyle Asia. He used to be a leading member of the Saturday Group of artists under National Artist Cesar Legaspi, and has authored art books on Alcuaz, Velasco, and Carlo Magno.

Presently, Jack Teotico also operates Galerie Joaquin on P. Guevara St. in San Juan, with a branch at the prestigious The Regent Hotel in Singapore, the only gallery there that displays 100-percent Philippine art.

Another invaluable regular section in Contemporary Art Philippines is billed as Auction Results, which shows very clearly how our artists, including the very young, are heroically bringing in so many dollars.

A quote from Sotheby’s says it all: “The Filipino painting has been able to create a stimulating and original balance between traditional themes and new ideas. Colorful, passionate, and ostentatious, Filipino painting encompasses the totality of the contemporary experience in the country, from low to high culture.”

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