Santi Bose’s name conjures images in my mind of a mythical artist: hip, bohemian, devil-may-care. I never met him, and only encountered his work after he had passed away. I remember walking into the third floor gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2004, where curator Bobi Valenzuela had mounted a retrospective of his pieces, and being blown away. Perhaps it is the natural affinity I have for his aesthetic. His kitschy collages assembled with images from Philippine history and tribal artifacts just resonate with my partiality for art with that contemporary, ethnic vibe.
In 2009, Santi Bose would have turned 60. Before the end of the lunar new year, his family felt that it was a good time to revisit Santi, the artist who mentored and still inspires artists working today, and Santi, the artist who also cultivated ties with the luminaries of Philippine literature.
As you get off the elevator on the third floor of the Yuchengco Museum, a 12 ft x 12 ft brightly-colored mural greets you. This collaboration by eight visual artists is their completed version of the mural that Santi had been working on when he died unexpectedly in 2002. Santi’s own unfinished piece, 9 -11 Return Of The Comeback, anchored on Picasso’s Guernica, hangs directly behind it. Several of Santi’s self -portraits hang in this first gallery, the circular space where you start viewing the show. He completed them at different stages in his life, and you get to know parts of the man as you encounter his likenesses. Kwatro Kantos, an art collective based in San Francisco, put together their tribute, an altar of sorts, centered on Ako: Self Portrait, one of several of a series of works done by Santi on old wooden doors. I had seen one other one of these in the CCP collection.
Ave. C, after Santi’s New York Alphabet City address, is my favorite among all the self-portraits on display. As the notes explain, Santi would use this piece to experiment on his airbrush technique. Which probably explains why its background looks like a wall full of graffitti. But whether by happy accident or by deliberate design, I love the result!
Santi put together a compilation of anting-anting images. For this show, the Bose family asked writers to create special pieces—a poem, an essay, short stories—inspired by one of the anting-antings rendered by Santi. Their work, along with Santi’s images, have been put up on the walls of the next gallery. Karla Delgado, Jessica Hagedorn, John Silva, Santi’s daughter Lilledeshan Bose, and Krip Yuson are among thirty who contributed works for this portion of the show.
To underscore the pervasiveness of Santi’s spirit in today’s contemporary art scene, several visual artists, using different media, produced pieces infused with the Santi Bose touch. On display are pieces by Mark Justiniani, Leonard Aguinaldo, John Frank Sabado, Kawayan de Guia, Jordan Mang-osan, Alwin Reamillo, Ged Alangui, Wig Tysmans, Arnel Agawin, Pat Hoffie, Visaya Hoffie, Perry Mamaril, Rica Concepcion, Egay Navarro, and Boy Yuchengco. I especially love Mark Justiniani’ Alapaap, part of his Jeepney series, definitely inspired by Santi Bose.
The exhibit culminates in a recreation of Santi Bose’s studio. Judging by the memorabilia he left behind, a bulol, carved wooden figurines, some ethnic masks, a small duwende, and an interesting wooden chair, you can sense that he would have been a truly fascinating person to have known.
Remix Santiago Bose runs from 11 February to 30 March 2010 at the Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza, cor Ayala and Sen. Gil Puyat Aves, Makati. Phone (632)889-1234 or email at email@example.com.