It must be the season for group shows. The third one I’ve seen this month, Hate Mail, at Manila Contemporary, is the second in a series of exhibits that, per the wall text, “…looks at visual linguistics in relation to communicating fundamental human emotions…” It comes after Love Letters, which the gallery, fittingly enough, mounted close to Valentine’s Day.
It seems difficult to avoid falling into the trap of communicating such strong emotions as love and hate via clichés. Some of the pieces in this show do so, reaching for more familiar means of expressing hate, equating it to violence and anger. Kaloy Sanchez chose the quiet route. In Flightless, he has painted self-loathing via the hopelessness of a drunkard who has given up on life. I’ve always loved the way he paints; his gray tones and mistily romantic vibe belie the intensity of his images.
Here, his subject lies naked, save for a plague doctor’s mask, the beak-like face cover meant to protect medieval physicians from the Black Death. It hides him from further humiliation, but does nothing to diminish his vulnerability.
Jojo Legaspi’s collection of pastel drawings also illustrates self-loathing. These three sets come from earlier in the artist’s career (although the gallery offers no dates in their labels). In spite of how familiar his autobiographical renderings have become, they do not diminish in their power.
Ling Quisumbing and Nikki Luna have shown the power of hate when communicated through text. Ling has borrowed from jeepney destination signs. She has filled these handy wooden pieces with invectives and insults, while Nikki has memorialized hurtful lines in small bronze plaques, turning the words into permanent markers.
With a dozen artists participating in this show of hate, you get a whole range of works to peruse. Clichés do have the advantage of making art accessible— and thus, easier to relate to.
Hate Mail runs from 2 July to 14 August 2011 at Manila Contemporary, Whitespace, 2314 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. Phone (632) 844-7328 or visit http://www.manilacontemporary.com