Depicting complex colonial history through art

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Thursday, July 3, 2014


“IT’S complicated” is an oft-heard phrase, popularized as a relationship status on Facebook, and has become the general term for ambiguous relationships that are all too common in today’s world. Interestingly, one can draw parallels between these and the relationship of the Philippines with its rich colonial past.

With this in mind, a Pasig-based museum has taken up the cudgel of depicting the complexities between the country and its colonial history through an exhibit of its own kind.

Featuring works from both contemporary and classical masters, Lopez Museum and Library, in partnership with Tin-aw Art Gallery, presents Complicated.

Built in 1960, the Lopez Museum and Library is the oldest privately owned and publicly accessible museum and library in the Philippines. The museum and library is most known for its extensive collection of over 21,000 Filipiniana titles, and its rich collection of legendary masters Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo paintings. Complicated is part of the museum’s semi-annual changing exhibition program, which began in 2001.

Complicated is a rich and unique interplay of modern interpretations and classic works. Featuring commissioned works from contemporary artists Mike Adrao, Ea Torrado, and Leslie de Chavez, the eclectic exhibition expresses the complicated, undefined and perhaps problematic relationship of modern-day Philippines with its colonial pasts, while drawing parallels and juxtaposing these with works by Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Juvenal Sanso, BenCab, Ang Kiukok, and Jerry Elizalde Navarro.

The exhibition showcases Mike Adrao’s masterful charcoal on paper works, collectively titled Colony, which consists of intricately adorned, larger-than life anthropomorphic pillars and insects.

Adrao, who completed his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (major in Studio Arts) at the University of the Philippines, has held solo exhibitions at Tin-Aw Art Gallery, Project Space Pilipinas, and the Southeast Asia Platform of Art Stage Singapore. His exhibitions have also been shown in South Korea and Malaysia. Furthermore, Adrao has been awarded artist residencies by NEAR Dangsang in Seoul and Project Space Pilipinas in Mandaluyong.

Another highlight of the exhibition is Dancer-choreographer Ea Torrado’s video installation based on the mentally ill Sisa and her frantic search for her two sons, as well as thorough reflections and interpretations on Juan Luna’s Espana y Filipinas.

Torrado is an accomplished independent dancer-choreographer, who has essayed various roles in classical and contemporary full-length ballets.
She has toured in the Philippines and abroad with Ballet Manila, Ballet Philippines, and the Dance Theatre of Tennessee. Recently, she has been credited for independently producing, conceptualizing and choreographing the dance theatre production Dots.

The exhibition also features works by contemporary visual artist Leslie de Chavez, who is known for his acerbic cultural commentary. De Chavez’s featured works depict reactions to Hidalgo’s Per Pacem et Libertatem studies which focus on colonization. His works portray colonization not simply as a context of our history, but as an ongoing and evolving process in modern day Philippines.

De Chavez, who earned his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (major in painting) with cum laude honors at the University of the Philippines, emerged as prize winner of the Ateneo Art Awards in 2010. He has held solo exhibitions in the Philippines, Singapore, China, Korea, Switzerland and Germany. De Chavez has also been awarded residencies by the International Art Programme in Leipzig, Germany; the Neo-Emerging Artists Residency in Seoul, Korea; and the Asian Artists Fellowship Program in Korea.

De Chavez is also set to give an Artist Talk at the Lopez Museum on July 5 from 2-4pm to discuss his work process, choice of materials, subject matter, as well as his views on the challenges and possibilities of art as engagement with people.

Complicated is curated by Ricky Francisco and Ethel Villafranca, and is open until August 2, 2014. Lopez Museum and Library is open Mondays to Saturdays, from 8am to 5pm.
The Lopez Memorial Museum is at the Ground Floor, Benpres Building, Exchange Rd. corner Meralco Ave., Pasig City. For inquiries, call tel. 6312417. (Brent Harvey S. Jimenez-Addu Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 04, 2014.

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