Potencies at The Met

Alfredo Esquillo Jr., "Mamakinley", (image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila)

A break in my schedule allowed me to swing by the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, a serendipitous occurrence I took advantage of as I hardly find myself in that side of town. I so wanted to catch BISA:  Potent Presences, and, as luck would have it, there I was.

Roberto Feleo, "Mito ng Bukidnon sa Mata ng Isang Turista" and exhibit installation view

Manuel Ocampo, "Self Portait"

The show brings together a wonderful assembly of Philippine art and artifacts, a multi-disciplinary display culled from private and institutional collections.  Dr. Patrick Flores, director of the UP Vargas Museum, curated the exhibit.  He has brought out gems rarely available for public viewing.  That alone makes it worth the trek across town.

Julie Lluch, "Philippine Gothic" and Alfredo Esquillo Jr., "Mamakinley"

As the Philippine contribution to Self and Other:  Portraits from Asia and Europe, a series of exhibits that originated in Japan (and of which similar variants will also run in London and Stockholm) the show explores rich examples of how interactions with European traditions affect personal representations.  Admittedly, as a former colony of a European power, we have plenty of material to draw from.  What makes the show extraordinary is the seamless interplay between historic and contemporary pieces through which Dr.

Alfredo Roces, "We Who Are About to Die", Santiago Bose, "Eyes of Gauze" and "Ako"

Flores mines this theme.  He divided the exhibit into four parts:  Ibayo/Afterlife, Ganap/Here and Now, Tuwina/ Time and Again, and Dayo/Far and Away.  The exhibit weaves through a variety of time lines and genres; it draws complex portraits influenced from a cross-section of sources.

Fernando Amorsolo portraits of Felcing Tirona

Come to the show to see Alfredo Esquillo Jr.’s obra maestra,  Mamakinley, the best of his archival paintings.  It belongs to Kim Atienza’s collection, and has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York.  I credit this piece with turning me on to contemporary Philippine art.  Also on view, Manuel Ocampo’s Self Portrait from 2003.  His depiction of himself as

Ang Kiukok, "Man on Fire"

a cherub hovers over a tortured St. Jerome translating the bible.  Louie Cordero recreates Volume 1 of his celebrated Nardong Tae comic strip on a long wall in one of the galleries.  More to be enjoyed, an early Elmer Borlongan, Spider Boy, from 1999, and an untitled Jojo Legaspi’s portrayal of his gossiping aunts in pastel on paper.  The exhibit features a realistic portrait of Ferdinand Marcos, remarkable because National Artist Ang Kiukok executed it in a style so different from his usual.

At the foreground, one of Junyee's Siete Pintados

The Que family contributed several exceptional works from their collection:  Juan Luna’s Self Portrait (Indios Bravos), from 1886, a terracotta Maitum head, and another self-portait, that of Roberto Feleo’s, contained within his signature virina.

Feleo also lent a number of his own pieces.  Other works on loan from artists:  Julie Lluch’s Philippine Gothic, Marina Cruz’s baby dresses in resin, Patricia Eustaquio’s Dear Heartburn ceramic sculpture, Gerry Tan’s Phosphorescent Salvation, stills from Jose Tence Ruiz’s performance Without It I am Invisible 1 and 2, Mark Justiniani’s chrome pieces from his jeepney series, and a beautiful Moriones mask that belongs to Brenda Fajardo.

Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, "Future Tense: A Portrait"

Unusual pieces include drawings by Carlos “Botong” Francisco of costumes for a Manuel Conde film from the Ernesto and Araceli Salas collection, and two prints of torture scenes made by activists/artists during Martial Law from the Teresita Maceda collection.

Bencab, "Portrait of Flor Contemplacion"

The Bangko Sentral and CCP Collections provided many of the notable pieces on display, treasures like the 19th century wooden panel of the 6th station of the cross from a Bohol  church.  Unlike accepted Western accounts, the unknown Bohol Master painted  three images of Christ imprinted onto Veronica’s shroud instead of just one.  Another absolute delight, Portrait of a Girl Dressed as a Gypsy, a 1914 Jorge Pineda oil on canvas.

More of Bencab's pieces from the CCP Collection

Take the time to examine the manipulated photographs of Malaysian artist I-Lan Yee and Jet Pascua’s video, Ilista Mo Nalang Sa Tubig. Jet’s work welcomes viewers to the exhibit’s second floor venue.

Jet Pascua, "Ilista Mo Nalang Sa Tubig", video still

Wall texts remind us that the exhibit’s title Bisa translates to potency, efficacy, charm, enchantment, specter, and prowess. I prefer to think of it as the Filipino word for powerful and compelling. Two overused words, perhaps, but they do best describe the portraits presented to us in this show.

BISA:  Potent Presences runs from 19 May to 15 July 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Blvd., Manila.  Phone (632) 523-0613 or visit http://www.metmuseum.ph

19th Century portrait of Francisco Paliola SJ, Edgar Fernandez, "Portrait of Lean Alejandro", and Alvin Zafra, "Argument from Nowhere"


Jorge Pineda, "Portrait of a Girl Dressed As A Gypsy", 1914 (Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila)

From the Bangko Sentral Collection, 19th Century panel of 6th Station of the Cross from Bohol, note three images of Christ on shroud

Carlos "Botong" Francisco drawings of costumes for a Manuel Conde film

Cenon Rivera, "Tao at Kalabaw"

Antipas Delotavo, "Sa Harap ng PICC"

Diokno Pasilan, "Masinlo Project"

Dudley Diaz, "Prusisyon"

Elmer Borlongan, "Spider Boy"

Roberto Feleo, "Sariling Anyo Bilang Capricho"

Gaston Damag, "Conversion"

Gerry Tan, "Phosphorescent Salvation"

Guillermo Tolentino, "Filipino Ilustres"

I-lan Yee, "Landmark (Sulu Seas Series)"

I-lan Yee, "Study of Lampreys"

Exhibit installation view

Ilocano textiles on view

Jose Legaspi, "Untitled" and Victorio Edades, "Artist and Model"

Juan Luna, "Indios Bravos (Self Portrait)"

By Judy Freya Sibayan

Louie Cordero, "Nardong Tae Volume 1"

Installation view, Louie Cordero, "Nardong Tae Volume 1" and Muslim grave markers

Resin baby dresses from Marina Cruz

Mark Justiniani, "Silip Butas"

Mark Maesto, "Dragon Boat"

Mideo Cruz, "Gulp"

Morion mask from Brenda Fajardo collection

Ang Kiukok, "Portrait of Ferdinand Marcos"

Orlando Castillo, "Sulong, Labanan ang Uring Mapang-Api" and "Iba't Ibang Uri ng Torture"

Patricia Eustaquio, "Dear Heartburn"

American-era photographs from the Jonathan Best collection

Poklong Anading, "Anonymity Series"

Rodel Tapaya, "Changing Landscapes"

Simon Flores, "Dona Miguela Henson"

Jose Tence Ruiz, performance documentation, "Without It I Am Invisible"


One Response to Potencies at The Met

  1. Dawn Atienza says:

    We were fortunate enough to join Patrick Flores’ walk through of Bisa yesterday. Really wonderful show. I enjoyed seeing paintings amidst artifacts, movie posters, videos and even Nora Aunor’s shoes. Bisa ends mid-July.

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