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Thursday, June 11, 2009

''ABSTRACT VS ABSTRACT''



''ABSTRACT VS ABSTRACT''

recent works by:
FITZ HERRERA & MAX BALATBAT

Abstract vs. abstract : a barely adversarial encounter of artistry

In the art scene, though most artists live and work solitarily in many ways, always, a sense of competition and subtle adversarial relations exist. Professional, ideological, political, esthetic and creative differences define these relations. Seen in art competitions, the pursuit of critical acclamation which gives impetus to better work and the drive to cut above the rest and the amount of commercial success—though not always, become measure of skills and talent of an artist and the pertinence of his art. Thus, it always a harsh question of who’s better than who?

But imagine two long time friends and creative comrades engaged in a conflict?

Abstract vs Abstract may seem a matter of taut and stern contradiction, but it is a veiled juxtaposition meant to effectively counterpoint and emphasize and finally to celebrate the works of two ingenious abstractionists, Max Balatbat and Fitz Hererra.

It is an embodiment of the contemporary abstraction of almost similar and yet so radically different approaches and styles. In fact, their work can even be regarded as sui generis in the ambit of abstract art in the country.

This exhibition covers their recent and latest works of scaled up abstract pieces from a shared esthetic background and temperaments proudly occupying the expansive space of the Art Center of Megamall this June 12- 26.

Notably, these bracing works resonate what is essential to Herrera and Balatbat and from which they both draw inspiration---their music as well as their immediate, storied and familiar environment. All these things pervasively permeate in their own individual visual enterprise which they conjure in an unfettered creative process.


More geometric and linear in his meshed elements, Maxbal continues to be noted critically for his abstraction of architectural spaces, interesting urban landscapes of ramshackle, run down edifices, and images of dismal urban communes. These renderings also become bittersweet reminders of his childhood, lost innocence in a place called International Cabaret, a prominent brothel house in Caloocan where he grew up.

In this particular collection, he however poignantly reflects on the lives of scorned and lowly regarded prostitutes of Avenida and their nocturnal world morally prejudiced and disdained by society.

As darkness embraces this sordid stretch and all its alleys and as the fancy flickers of bars and brothels sets in, he recreates in his canvas a paradise as his humble tribute to these women-also mothers, wives and daughters, as pause from the dusky night and nocturnal side of harsh realities

Fresh from a juried exhibition, he recently won the grand prize in the 2009 Art Association of the Philippines -ECCA (Exhibition Center for the Contemporary Art) Abstract Art Competition.


Meanwhile, Hererra, as a musician who’s into highly amplified metal music, in his own creative fashion, consistently takes music and chaos as a necessary catalyst in his art production. His painting mostly done at home in the PNR Compound, an informal settlement or iskwater in Caloocan, this locus surrounded by grim realities of poverty and ranting sounds and sight of disarray gets constantly married to his favorite tunes. Under these circumstances, he manages to produce, brilliant and affable visual pieces with easily accessible metaphor and other circumlocutions.

For his part, his lyrical pieces are both subtle and loud expression of his passion for music. His evocative brushwork can be seen as more, rhythmically billowing and swirling layers of heavy paint in loopy volumes.

An intense visualization of creative flux , this suite of paintings consists of texturized oil and acrylic pieces with the inclusion of more circular strokes departs from the earlier frames he did in the past. He creates wild trajectories of paints as he crudely daubs his canvas large patches of dark pigments then into light ones, which later also produces a quality of diaphanous transition in between tonal gradations overlapping colors.

Also as a peculiar practice, he does not repeat vertical lines and to identify his work, a visible circular stamp of embossed paint can also be seen, gestured with obvious drip marks and linear patterns.

These works assume the intense and tantalizing visual game of raw and constrained images, hues and tacked with rage and tranquility. However, pedagogical values in terms of technique and approaches are unmistakably skilled and sterling.

In a way, this collection is a proper respect to the individual spaces in the universe of abstraction, their individual and combined talents, their tenacity and spiritedness, as well as obeisance to their influences.

Having found abstraction as their true metier in art, this show attempts to underscore nuances in this genre, not just between these two brilliant artists and what sets them apart from the others within the same visual game. The earnestness present in this collection can hardly be dismissed. Unwittingly, it can grab and demand attention.

Fitz Hererra: combining grating music and gritty art

In the art scene, though all skilled not many artists start out already good, get better in the process and remain pertinently acknowledged. Perhaps a fluke to some but not to an artist of an undeniable gift combined with grit and commitment.

Fitz Herrera has been painting for more than decade now and this is marked by his impressive exposure in many fine art venues and his steadily lauded reputation throughout these years. Both him and his colleague, Maxbal hailed from the obstinate and unbowed art collective, Sininggang, whose members endured and persisted despite the scant attention they received early in their careers.

Hererra’s current works resounds a unique progression in his artistic career. Although influenced by a number of local and foreign artists, like Pep Manalang, Mark Rothko and Gustave Klimpt to name a few, Herrera follows no consistent praxis. As noted by art specialist Ruben Canete, his works belong to the realm of post modern abstraction.

This man’s artmaking can be described as an interplay of a constant conversation between himself, music and any of his currently assigned muse. He takes music as a necessary lead to guide his process and his other interesting impulses to complete it.

Even in the onset of his career, his passion for music already manifested in his earlier works in which either they are directly titled from the artist’s favorite songs or their lyrics. While sternly adhering to formality and technicality, he also plunges liberally into his creative process pushing himself and his boundaries. Always fluid, his final frames always fresh and uncontrived.

As a brilliant artist, he so deserves and warrants anything but marginal praise.



- exhibition notes by Philip Paraan

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