I look forward to the Ateneo Art Awards every year. I believe that it does a credible job of recognizing the best works by young visual artists. I do not always agree with their
selections, and I do have an issue with the awards’ age limit. But overall, I still find it relevant and prestigious, a worthy acknowledgement of efforts undertaken in the past twelve months. All the chatter that rolls in along with the announcement of winners just adds to the fun! Yes we get names that appear every year— but doesn’t that just prove that those who always make it to the shortlist consistently do great work? A key component to the judging process requires artists to recreate an exhibit for the benefit of the panel of jurors. Yes, this imposes an onerous burden on the artists, one that the galleries must pitch in for. Having exhibits properly documented certainly helps. But it does prove difficult to capture an exhibit’s original flavor, despite the galleries’— and the artists’—best efforts. Perhaps, this should be addressed.
Since 2004, the Ateneo Art Gallery has bestowed the Ateneo Art Awards on three artists below the age of 36 who have exhibited outstanding work in the past year. A panel chooses the three winners from a shortlist of 12. The winners then have a chance at four overseas artist residency programs.
The Jorge B. Vargas Museum deserves a pat in the back as the unacknowledged fourth winner of this year’s awards. They mounted two of the three winning exhibits, and these serve as testaments to their programming. They have displayed a real commitment to showcasing the best of contemporary Philippine art. I even think that this year’s panel missed out on a third Vargas exhibit, one that should have been in the shortlist: Rodel Tapaya’s Bulaklak ng Dila (10 December 2010 to 5 March 2011). But that’s just me, kibitzing from the sidelines.
I have to admit,though, that I am more than happy with the two Vargas exhibits that won. Maria Taniguchi’s Echo Studies
(30 March- 28 May 2011) definitely stood out as one of the most thought provoking of the group. Her works, contemplations on absent objects presented through drawings and a video installation, evince a fastidious and polished approach to art making. She has been awarded the residency to the Common Rooms Network Foundation in Bandung, Indonesia. Kawayan de Guia won his second Ateneo Art Award for Bomba (15 June-18 Dec 2010), his installation of disco mirror bombs that rotate along to the soundtrack of a video on porn and violence. If you ask me, he should have also won for his 2009 jukebox/jeepney pieces (from the exhibit Katas ng Pilipinas: God Knows Hudas Not Play). But I’ve stated before that I think these mirrored torpedoes are worthy successors to that series. He gets the La Trobe University Residency in Sydney.
Congratulations to Bembol dela Cruz for this much-needed shot in the arm! Bembol has continuously documented a subculture of skaters and tattoo artists through photorealistic paintings. He’s back in the radar with this win, for House Blends (Blanc Compound, 9 – 30 April 2011), an exhibit on anarchy via homemade bomb making. Bembol will undertake two of the residencies, in Singapore at Artesan, and in the UK, at the Liverpool Hope University, the first time this has been offered to the Ateneo Art Awards.
The other artists on this year’s shortlist: Renato Barja Jr. (The Jungle and the Rain), Frank Callaghan (River of Our Dreams), Olivia d’Abboville (New Frontiers: Olivia D’Abboville, Chasm of Fantasies), Nona Garcia, (Fractures), Sam Kiyoumarsi (Inalienable Dreamless), Tatong Recheta Torres (Make My Day!), Rodel Tapaya (Simple Depictions), MM Yu (Waste Not Want Not), and Maria Jeona Zoleta (Sure Sure, Happy Happy, Picture Picture).
Kudos to the Ateneo Art Gallery headed by Richie Lerma and Yael Buencamino Borromeo! The Ateneo Art Awards turns eight this year, a worthy contributor to the enrichment of Manila’s art scene.
Ateneo Art Awards 2011 Anatomy of Autonomy runs from 5 to 15 August 2011 at the Grand Atrium of the Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Shaw Blvd, Mandaluyong City. The exhibition continues from 20 August to 10 September at the Ateneo Art Gallery, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Phone (632) 426-6488 or visit http://www.ateneoartgallery.org