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Saturday, September 19, 2009

ROSA NEGRA

Rosa Negra
a visual commentary on the state of the nation’s art

Rosa Negra (Black Rose) is a group show featuring over 35 visual artists. It was conceived as a visual commentary on the state of the nation’s art. Although initially associated with the National Artist Award, artists have found a venue to air their concerns: artistic freedom, recognition and awards, criticism and acceptance, artist education and experience, commercialization and relevance of art, integrity and responsibility. These artists seek to contribute to the reinstatement of values and improvement of ethics in contemporary Philippine visual arts. Rosa Negra is both reactive and proactive. The show opens with a program by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) 6pm Monday 21 September 2009 at Artis Corpus Gallery, 303 Haig Street, Mandaluyong City. The show ends on 20 October 2009. The public is cordially invited.


This visual journey starts with a prophetic message from Ryan Rubio with the stern warning You may be holding a flower now, but not tomorrow, emphasizing perhaps the buddhist doctrine on impermanence and perpetual transition. Everything is temporary and everything will soon fade away. Even the most concrete of things can be ephemeral as ether. This exhibition and even these concerns will soon fade and die, as naturally as they are born.

Raphael Daniel David sets the essence behind the title of the exhibition with his Bahid (Stain). Built around the recent controversy surrounding the National Artist Award, the black rose emerged as the symbol of corruption, the death of ethics, and the seeming disrespect for the integrity of things solemn and true. Julian Araos’s Cock Tale provides elbow support for the journey to follow and Jerusalino Araos’s Pork Barrel sets the tone for this adventure in the realm of the mind and the senses.

The Chamber of the Creator

Rosa Negra presents its main character: the visual artist. Naivete, perhaps bordering on simple ignorance of the ways of the world, characterizes the visual artist who figures as a minor character in this play called Reality. Bernard Del Mundo’s Black Crown Conspiracy presents the ever present Mickey Mouse cap worn by the dunce, the idiot in any play. Dominador Laroza’s The Innocent echoes the same plight of the pawn, whose master simply commands its movements and eventually feeds it to some knight or bishop, or even a fellow pawn, or even perhaps a king or queen, of the art world. The visual artist has become a tragic victim of sorts, amplified by Zaldy Garra’s Dala ng Pangangailangan (Out of Necessity). Many principles have been put to test and many values have been sacrificed to the hungry mouth of need, want, and meaningless poverty.

Inborn talent, which needs only to be nurtured by education or experience, is coupled with innate human duality. Mark Anthony Bello is self-taught in the craft of painting. His Inborn Master implies that the artistic gene comes with the package at birth. Grandier’s Ambiguous Intentions muddles good intentions with greed for money, for fame, for power.

The Chamber of Influences

Rosa Negra then presents the multitude of characters surrounding the visual artist: the doting overly concerned parent, the master art teacher, the gallerist, the critic, the collector, and the greed that accompanies each one of them. How many times have we been warned “You cannot eat art!” Derrick Macutay’s work of the same title says what politicians whose primary battlecry is the alleviation of poverty in the streets shout about. Selfish parents in dire need of financial support in their useless years prevent artists from pursuing their aspirations. Corona Dolot continues to believe otherwise, ridiculous as it may seem, as her Hapunan (Supper) serves crimson in tubes, delivered to the hungry mouth by a round No. 14 brush.

Bondage is the eternal theme of the visual artist. Not because it is really so, but because it is chosen to be so. It is the visual artist’s friend and greatest excuse. It is the visual artist’s choice to accept a multitude of responsibilities, in the first place. It is also the habit of visual artists to listen to others, in the second place. In the artist’s mind, freedom of expression is curtailed by reactions of the people who eventually view the residue of their artistic process: the painting, the piece of sculpture. Rinne Abrugena’s Maestro (Master) in a two-part invention she calls diptych is a subtle commentary on the role of the professors in the lives of their students. Rebellion in materials, rebellion in styles, rebellion in concepts are constant fare on the studio arts floor. Jyosna Siachongco’s Bondage says it all. Flower on head plus chains around body equals apathy and non-movement. This is further echoed by Thomas Daquioag’s May Bagong Obra (There’s a New Work). Paper airplane symbolizes creativity. The traditional ball and chain in feet decelerates artistic expression instantly.

The classic role of the professional art critic was to pass judgment on a piece of art or exhibition. Credentials include a thorough education in the field of world art, preferably with a tint of anthropology and psychology. There used to be a time when artists would spend endless sleepless nights after opening an exhibition, just to read what these legitimate critics would say. In these times, however, anyone can pretend to be an art critic. This borrowed piece from Lindslee entitled Chicken War pays tribute to all of them, good or bad. As the saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity.” Besides, most recent reviews simply show a play of words, more than real ideas, glorifying the writer more than the artist being put on the block.

The Wall of the Promoter

Here comes the greatest player of them all: the Gallerist! Rafael Louis Gonzalez’s Promises of Gold and Silver delivers the message as clearly as the words of exclusivity: “You are Mine!” The artist’s life depends primarily on creative expression, founded on the integrity of concepts flowing out of the artist’s mind and manifested using the artist’s talented hands. The artist’s career relies very heavily on the amount of expression that emanates from this creative process. Solo exhibitions give the artist full control of all the elements in play. Group exhibitions, specially thematic ones, offer a broadening of the artist’s horizon as they present challenges. The artist’s achievements are evidenced by and documented in exhibitions. Hidden works remain hidden. Something that I really cannot comprehend yet, gallerists prefer to promote exclusive artists, honing their artistic talents and creativity toward the desires of their collecting (thus, spending) audience.

As the Artists are promoted, they continue to contend with what people around them have to say. Kris Jan Gavino’s Anong Say Mo? (What do you have to say to this?) challenges the audience. Franklyn Epil’s Si Lola Basyang at Mga Bungangera (Lola Basiang and Verbal Tormentors) portrays bombardment from all sides. Calloused or not, Filipino visual artist dismisses the comments.

Artistic bondage reappears in a more brutal fashion, this time as exploitation, as these external forces surrounding the visual artist appear as aggressors. Grace Mareth Astoveza’s Over Notion grabs the artist by hand and ties it with a rope. Norlito Meimban’s Commissioned Work is the perfect illustration of the kind of puppetry that artists have to dance to when dealing with their clients and agents. Mark Anthony Bello presents an even darker side of this concern in his Patibong (Trap), perhaps an autobiographical sketch of a recent morbid experience.

The Hall of Ethics

Charlie Villagracia in his work entitled Pose introduces the driving force in the arena of contemporary visual art, possibly even in the realm of Philippine society itself: the Boar. The overly illustrated powerplayer: the King, the Queen, the Lord of Lords, is glorified by Jay Jamoralin in his Palakasan at Pakapitan (Competition in Strength and Adhesiveness). Rey Anthony Alejandro presents cunning and craft in his tiny yet powerful work Luto (Cooked), a term normally used in selecting winners in Philippine contests and competitions. Alejandro’s second work Contra Delicadeza (Insensibility) plays on the same theme of indiscretion and sheer lack of good manners and propriety. Juan Bautista’s Must be in the Center of Things properly hangs on the door of the toilet. The center of activity in any house is its outhouse. Ethics begins and ends there.

The National Artist Awards issue is presented in the next works. The selection process is likened to a play of cards common to Filipino children in Heraldo Corpus’s Tsa-Tsub: Proseso ng Pagpili (Obverse-Reverse: Selection Process). Averil Paras’s Pulitika sa Likod ng Obra (Politics behind the Work of Art) emphasizes the role of political maneuvering even in artistic endeavors. Alrashdi Mohammad’s Passengers Waiting for Nothing may very well be the resolution of these concerns. Pedro Garcia’s Cancelled Award frustrates the awardee eagerly waiting and preparing for the glorious event. Jojo Austria’s Reflection of the Place We Live in categorically presents mess as the mirror of the culture of this society we belong to. And the Filipino continues to be mute about it all in Juan Tivi’s Ang Himig ni Juan Pipi (Song of John Dumb).

The Chamber of Realities

Two more works convey a message summarizing the state of the nation’s art. JCrisanto Martinez’s Wagwagan (Flinging) contains “patches of influence altogether amalgamated in one generic artwork and artscene … called Philippine art,” as he writes. A totally unrelated piece which carries the quotation “I did not know there was a theme,” yet rebaptized to fit the show, is Ely Tablizo’s Sayonatsi (You get my slippers if you win) now called Palakasan (Powerplay).

Trends in contemporary visual arts seem to present a ready future for Filipino artists. Ray-Ann Durana simply says “Just go with the flow” in reference to the most desired style at the moment: photographic realism embellished with splotches of graphic art. Derrick Macutay shifts attention in his Reflections of Reflections as he tackles the role of multimedia in the future of visual arts. Similarly, Sam Penaso presents the same argument in his Virtual Reality utilizing digits and digitization to produce images. John Marin’s Singkit-Singkitan (Chinkplay) presents Asianification of Philippine visual arts, a trend so highly visible as markets in South East, Central Asia, and Far East have recently opened.

Juan Bautista presents the simple red dot as the fitting ending for this foreplay called Art. In his God he summarizes the motivation of all the players in the so-called commodification and commercialization of Philippine art. Artists desire it, as it satisfies their desires. Gallerists adore it, as though the prime and only test of artistry is sale, making sure that every show is “All Sold Out.” Of course, our collectors put it.

A red wall remains vacant reserved for artists who have previously agreed to join in the exhibition, verbally or otherwise. Reasons such as sicknesses and over-booking are all welcome excuses for nondelivery. To them, Juan Bautista presents his Una Rosa Negra para la Muerte de la Palabra de Honor (A Black Rose for the Death of the Word of Honor), transcending the role of the black rose in the National Artist Award.

And in the final scene when one packs everything away, Don Santana’s Mantsa (Stain) will just not go away. Period.



Enrico J. L. Manlapaz
17 September 2009


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