One of the best shows I’ve seen this year. I can say that right off the bat. I thought Kawayan de Guia would have a hard time topping the installation he did for the CCP Thirteen Artists exhibit. In Katas ng Pilipinas: God Knows Hudas Not Play, he brings that concept further, develops it into a full-blown show, and made my jaw drop! He wowed all of us who happened to catch him putting this show together at The Drawing Room in Makati.
The idea of creating art out of discarded, broken-down jukeboxes percolated in Kawayan’s mind after stumbling into a cache at what he calls a “jukebox graveyard” in Baguio. Like the jeepneys that have now become part and parcel of Pinoy life, the jukebox came to us through the Americans, through our acceptance of America and its culture. Both have been adapted and localized: the jeepney through embellishment uniquely its own, the jukebox through the music it typically blares out. We’ve even coined the term Pinoy Jukebox to refer to the sentimental warbles of local artists from the 1960s and 70s. And who would listen avidly to these ditties? Why jeepney drivers, of course!
Kawayan took off from jeepney art to adorn these jukeboxes. After he had found a place to bring the jukeboxes to life, he bedecked them in the combination of kitsch and chrome we’ve come to associate with the kings of the roads.
This show includes three jukeboxes, all repaired and ready to rock: Lilindol Muna Bago Puputok, UFO Alien Jeepney, and my favorite, Rock and Roll. Turn them on and with neon lights flashing, they deliver an incredible multi-sensory experience.
Kawayan also exhibits six wall-bound pieces. He digitally reprinted long-playing album covers, blew them up on canvas, then transformed them. As with the jukeboxes, he took inspiration from jeepneys. Like the jeepneys, these canvases metamorphosed into amalgams: part print, part painting, and part collage. Each comes together as an
astonishingly original pastiche. Kawayan finished them with a stainless steel frame that resembles a jeepney’s front window. He commissioned mudguards to hang underneath each canvas. They spell out each piece’s title in the same way that the the jeepney’s rubber mudguards contain uniquely Pinoy statements. What a cool touch!
Kawayan takes original facets of Filipino culture and manages to translate them into art pieces that do not feel insular. Describing his art seems like describing the artist himself. While his sensibilities remain inherently Filipino, he has embraced a global aesthetic that feels so now. He moves with ease across various media and always manages to produce contemporary work without being derivative. The guy is FLY!
When you come to view the exhibit, make sure you request for the jukeboxes to be switched on. Enjoying Kawayan’s art accompanied by Oh My Candida playing in the background guarantees an awesome experience!
Katas ng Pilipinas God Know Hudas Not Play runs from 21 November to 12 December 2009 at The Drawing Room, 1007 Metropolitan Avenue, Metrostar Bldg., Makati City. Phone (632)897-7877 or visit http://www.drawingroomgallery.com