After exhibits in Singapore and Hong Kong in January and February, the Manila leg of Roberto Chabet: 50 Years opened with two shows running almost simultaneously. Ziggurat at West Gallery and onethingafteranother at Finale are the most recent events in this yearlong project. The series of exhibits celebrates Roberto Chabet’s half a century of influence in the Philippine art scene.
ZIGGURAT, WEST GALLERY
Wall-bound works make up this show at West Gallery. Collages, drawings, and assembled works on canvas that allude to the pyramidal, terraced structure of the ziggurat have been arranged thematically in the gallery’s four spaces. The biggest room houses the newest set of works, while the three other rooms display pieces from 1979 to 1980. Five drawings, made with felt-tipped marking pens, hang by the elevators, at the foyer.
In Gallery 1, small rectangular canvases painted red, yellow, bright blue, black, or white have been stacked up and framed in the form of the ziggurat. Mr. Chabet’s paintings make use of these colors almost exclusively, and have become something of a trademark. In each piece, produced this year, the blocks of color seem to have been randomly put together, mixed up in various combinations. They reminded me of unfinished Rubik’s cubes.
I found myself drawn to the works on the other side of the gallery, the collages from thirty years ago. While the paintings used blocks of canvas, a handful of collected paper objects—postcards, colored envelopes, even a magic slate—make up the ziggurats for these pieces. I liked how torn bits of masking tape, now yellowed, had been set to form patterns of diagonal slashes onto most of the works. Three pieces from the set Kong Ziggurrat incorporate black and white photos of stills from the movie King Kong, quite humorous details. One of them has King Kong at the apex, as if he had just scaled the Empire State Building, the most recognizable ziggurat in the world.
Of all the collages on view, I particularly liked P.Q. from 1979. Multi-colored shreds from ripped party masks have been pasted onto three sheets of paper. Like confetti, they lie scattered on a flat plane, remnants of what must have been a fun party.
ONETHINGAFTERANOTHER, FINALE ART FILE
Finale’s exhibit consists of three works. All have been produced this year, specifically to fit the gallery’s three spaces.
On the massive ground floor space, sheet after sheet of galvanized iron had been laid out to form a sea of steel. Neon lamps stand around the installation, casting light that bounces off the metal beneath. The best place to view the piece is on the gallery’s second floor mezzanine, on the benches that overlook the main gallery area.
The second floor mezzanine itself holds one of the show’s other pieces. The last one is found inside what is called Finale’s Video Room. Both use neon texts, words strung together without spaces. One reads onethingafteranother, the other imageafterimage.
Once I got over the intimidation of being confronted by work that seemed indecipherable, read the exhibit notes, then had my Eureka moment, I went back to Finale two days later to revisit Mr. Chabet’s work. He makes reference to Donald Judd, best known for his three-dimensional pieces from stacks of fabricated industrial materials, literally one thing after another, made into one complete whole. Mr. Chabet does the same with his continuous sheets of metal and neon texts: when piled on so close together, what once were distinct from each other transform into another completely different object. The sheets have become a glaring field of silver, the texts, as the exhibit notes describe them, “…morph into alien objects, corporeal.”
Ziggurat runs from 29 March to 23 April 2011 at West Gallery, 48 West Avenue, Quezon City. Phone (632) 411-0336 or visit http://www.westgallery.org
onethingafteranother runs from 6 to 28 April 2011 at Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo, Makati City. Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit http://www.finaleartfile.com