Fresh from the Singapore Biennale, where his installation My We must rank as one of the event’s most photographed pieces, Louie Cordero returns to Manila with Slow Education. Louie hasn’t had a solo exhibit back here since 2008’s fantastic Absolute Horror, so this comeback to MO Space generated excitement and curiosity among his collectors. Personally, I wanted to witness the direction Louie would take, given that before the Biennale, he was coming from another big project: Sacred Bones, his solo at New York’s Jonathan Levine Gallery.
Louie first made his name as the creator of the underground comics series Nardong Tae and for the CD covers he designed for local bands. We consider him as the original purveyor of Pinoy lowbrow. His graphic style antedated the movement in Manila by a decade. The monsters and zombies that populate his paintings, sculptures, and installations are distinct for their liberal use of violent and gory details–e.g., popped out eyeballs, brains, and innards–rendered in candy colors. This exhibit, however, signals a shift, a slight variation of the images that we have come to associate with him.
Louie has called this show Slow Education because he has consciously gone back to the basics of art school. The paintings on exhibit depart from the densely packed works on canvas that we know. He reinvestigates the origins of modern and avant-garde art, fiddling with shapes and forms that hark back to Picasso and Braque, eliminating and simplifying instead of piling on figures to make up narratives. The paintings do, however, retain the touches that identify them as singularly Louie’s. They have been injected with a dose of humor, incongruous juxtapositions, and bright, acid hues. One of the bigger works on canvas takes an image of the late Francis Magalona (from his album Yo!) inspecting a collection of shapes that resemble tribal sculpture, while traces of Mondrian lie visible on the paintings left—the king of Pinoy rap meets the creator of the Boogie Woogie injected with a dose of Africa, all in one painting.
My two favorite pieces of the show are of abstracted cityscapes tempered from seriousness by the addition of food and a pair of eyeballs. An upturned banana turns one into a smiling face, while an inverted sausage makes the other painting frown. Both are diamond-shaped oil paintings on canvas. On another small-scale canvas, he gives us a multi-colored deconstructed duck on a moss green base.
The exhibit features several of Louie’s old drawings. Some of them go back ten years and through them, we witness his experiments with what would eventually turn into major pieces. They also showcase Louie’s excellent skills with pen and ink!
Overall, I felt the exhibit gives off a promise of things to come. I say this because Louie works with a variety of media, and his paintings are just one aspect of how he threshes out his concepts. How he plays this series out, whether it will spawn the awesome range of his past works, should be great to see.
Slow Education runs from 26 March to 24 April 2011 at MO Space, 3F MOs Design Bldg., B2 Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Phone (632) 856-2748 or visit http://www.mo-space.net