Momentously Monumental

May 19, 2011

Elmer Borlongan, "Pag-ahon"

I never thought I’d wish Manila Contemporary had more space.  But when an exhibit like Monumental comes along, even the vast proportions of Metro Manila’s most capacious gallery seems crowded.

Jose John Santos III, "Oil Spill"

The show brings together most of the superstars of the Salingpusa and Sanggawa artist collectives, the group that exhibited regularly in Boston and Hiraya galleries in the late 1990s and early 2000s.   They collaborated on several murals, now considered seminal social commentaries of those times.  It seems only fitting that Valentine Willie, who first introduced the group to the Southeast Asian market, hosts this exhibit at the Philippine branch of his gallery network.

Antipas Delotavo, "Lead White"

Elmer Borlongan, Mark Justiniani, Joy Mallari, Ferdie Montemayor, and Jose John Santos III join Plet Bolipata, Antipas Delotavo, Alfredo Esquillo Jr., Maya Muñoz, and Mike Adrao in a show of larger-than-life paintings.  Each work measures from 12 to 15 feet long.  And while I thought the show would have been tighter if it had been built around a concept other than just scale, I can appreciate the appeal of the works on view.  The exhibit celebrates some of our most noted contemporary painters, guaranteed to please a broad segment of the city’s art lovers.

Alfredo Esquillo Jr., "Judgement Day"

Of the ten pieces on view, I felt that Elmer Borlongan’s  Pag-ahon truly rose to the occasion.  Emong didn’t settle for simply bringing out a larger version of his everyday vignettes.  He understood that a mural necessitates the use of scale, and perhaps a little drama, to make a visual statement.  His mannered rendition of a dozen men laboring to pull a boat to shore had to have been this size. His composition makes even more of an impact due to its simplicity.  This piece deserves its own wall.  If it had been the only piece in the entire exhibit, one could still call the show Monumental.

Installation view, works of Maya Munoz and Biboy Delotavo

For Biboy Delotavo, works of this size are the norm rather than the exception.  White Lead  revisits the false benevolence accorded to Filipinos more than 100 years ago by American invaders, effects of which still plague us today.  John Santos proves he is the master of photorealism in Oil Spill, a piece where his gargantuan, precise rendition of a taped photo of a spilt bottle of sardines recalls man-made disasters.  This one alludes to last year’s British Petroleum leak in the Gulf of Mexico.  The decapitated sliver of fish could very well have been part of the marine life wiped out by the spill.  Plexiglass fabricated as a slop of oil on the floor completes the trompe l’oeil effect in 3D.

Joy Mallari, "Litanya"

Alfredo Esquillo delivers a duly terrifying version of Judgement Day, an oil on rubber triptych finished with the superior workmanship that he has made his trademark.  Joy Mallari employs a familiar device for Litanya.  She combines texts and portraits in the manner of a giant crossword puzzle to complete the lyrics to Lupang Hinirang, our National Anthem.  The exhibit notes describe Mark Justiniani’s  Mining Mime Fields as a “…composite image on reflective, wavering surface…founded on thoughts about painting’s mimetic nature.”

Detail, Joy Mallari, "Litanya"

Ferdie Montemayor and Maya Muñoz both paint imaginary places.  Ferdie’s crowded spherical cityscape, Amen, presents a sharp contrast to Maya’s non-figurative evocation of a specific spot on earth.   Here On Earth, 14˚ 30.2034’N lat, 121˚ 2.1055’ lon E (32˚C 70% humidity) plots the particular point in which this painting had been made.

Mark Justiniani, "Making Mime Fields"

Plet Bolipata’s piece showcases her ever-present joie de vivre. My Boat Is Diagonally Parked In A Parallel Universe is composed of an oil on collage diptych and one of her mosaic sculptures.  I’ve always enjoyed her three-dimensional mosaics.   This one—an embellished true-to-size banca with metal versions of the owl and the pussycat playfully bisected by a see-saw— is one of her best.

Detail, Mark Justiniani, "Making Mime Fields"

Mike Adrao, a relative newbie to the art scene, held his own alongside the more well-known painters.  His charcoal on paper triptych Altar (Pyramid Babel, And The Word Is Made Flesh, Tumor) brought out his superb technical skills.  By using the details of a dollar bill as a base, he questions faith amidst the presence of material wealth. Although this piece may come off as a tad too complicated, it should be exciting to see where Mike takes his practice from hereon.

Plet Bolipata, "My Boat Is Diagonally Parked In A Parallel Universe"

MM Yu peppers the walls of the gallery’s secondary space, in the upper floor, with photos documenting the monumental work involved in putting the paintings together. Her photographs make a wonderful show on their own, capturing intimate details and profiling the artists at work as only MM can.  Visitors should not miss this part of the show!

Detail, Plet Bolipata, "My Boat Is Diagonally Parked In A Parallel Universe"

Monumental runs from 14 to 29 May 2011 at Manila Contemporary, Whitespace, 3214 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City.  Phone (632) 8447328 or visit

Mosaic Detail, Plet Bolipata

Detail, Plet Bolipata, "My Boat Is Diagonally Parked In A Parallel Universe"

MIke Adrao, "Altar (Tumor, And The Word Is Made Flesh, Pyramid Babel)"

Detail, Mike Adrao, "Altar (Tumor, And The Word Is Made Flesh, Pyramid Babel)"

Ferdie Montemayor, "Amen"

Maya Munoz, "Here On Earth, 14˚ 30.2034’N lat, 121˚ 2.1055’ lon E (32˚C 70% humidity)"



Detail, Alfredo Esquillo Jr., "Judgement Day"

Exhibit installation view

Installation view of MM Yu's documentation

MM Yu's portrait of Emong

MM Yu's documentation of John at work

MM Yu's documentaion of Mark and Joy at work

MM Yu's portrait of Biboy

MM Yu's portrait of Eski

MM Yu's portrait of Mike

Exhibit installation view

Happy Birthday Tin-Aw!

June 20, 2010

Jose John Santos III, "Clouded"

In my book, Tin-Aw holds the title as Makati’s most convivial gallery (Art Informal gets my vote for the Ortigas area).  How often have I stopped by for a quick look, only to end up staying longer than intended, chatting and laughing with other art lovers who also just happen to drop by?   Where else do you run into art superstars Mark Justiniani, Joy Mallari, Geraldine Javier, or Alfredo Esquillo Jr., and get to sit down with them as old friends?  Here, art is taken seriously, but is never intimidating.  You get treated with the same amount of charm, and welcomed with the same offer for Chocnut or coffee, whether you happen to be super collector Paulino Que or Mr. Newbie To The Art Scene.  Therein lies the secret to Tin-Aw’s success, the reason we all keep coming back to see what treasures their backroom holds.

Mike Adrao, "Intricate Rug-Beautiful Snake"

To celebrate the gallery’s second anniversary, Tin-Aw mounts Smokescreen, a group show of mostly paintings by artists Mike Adrao, Dennis Atienza, Antipas Delotavo, Mark Justiniani, Lee Paje, Goldie Poblador, Mark Salvatus, Jose John Santos III, and Wesley Valenzuela.  This is the first of a two-part exhibit to mark the gallery’s birthday.  Like all group shows, you have a mixed bag from the “veterans” and the very young artists.

Can John Santos ever paint a bad piece?  He delivers another winner with Clouded.  I also liked how Mike Adrao executed his charcoal on canvas Intricate Rug-Beautiful Snake. He certainly bears watching. Mark Justiniani shows Manhattan Project, a piece from his private

Mark Justiniani, "The Manhattan Project"

collection. He painstakingly scratched out images of the atomic bomb explosion juxtaposed beside the 911 Twin Towers explosion.  To complete the piece, he installs a mirror reflecting the word echo in a separate piece below the main image.

Detail, "Manhattan Project"

Congratulations to Dawn Atienza and Marya Salang, the amiable ladies of Tin-Aw!  More power!

Wesley Valenzuela, "Fragments"

Smokescreen runs from 18 June to 7 July at Tin-Aw Art Gallery, Upper GF, Somerset Olympia Makati, Makati Ave. cor. Sto. Tomas St., Makati City. Phone (632) 892-7522 or visit

Antipas Delotavo, "Pasasalamat"

Detail, "Pasasalamat"

Mark Salvatus, "Go Home"

Dennis Atienza, "Hush Hush"

By Goldie Poblador

Utopia in the Age of You Tube

April 16, 2010

More than twenty years ago, writer and art critic Alice Guillermo defined social realism as “…a shared point of view which seeks


to expose or lay bare the true conditions of Philippine society as well as to point out solutions by which these conditions are changed…”  Social Realism, or SR, has always had a strong presence in the Philippine art scene.  Artists don’t exist in a vacuum.  And just as in any community, some show more concern than others for politics and social justice.

I have always looked forward to the group exhibits by the Social Realism stalwarts:  Antipas Delotavo, Jose Tence Ruiz, Renato Habulan, and Pablo Baensantos.  They come together on an almost annual basis, mounting shows of mostly large-scale paintings. I have seen some pretty important pieces come out of these SM Art Center displays.  Among them, Biboy Delotavo’s unforgettable Diaspora, his 2007 mural on departing Filipino overseas workers, and Bogie Tence Ruiz’s first forays with the Kotillion in 2008.

Renato Habulan, detail, "Liwanag 1"

YOUTubia continues this tradition of the SR barkada.  The show’s title plays on the word utopia, the ideal social, political, and moral state.  In this age of the internet and global interconnections, one’s concept of utopia has broadened to embrace technological advances.  Social realism must also keep up with the times.  Thus,  aside from the Fab Four, this show includes work by Neil Doloricon,  younger activist-artists Mideo Cruz, Iggy Rodriguez, and Buen Calubayan, as well as less militant contemporary art practitioners Tatong Recheta Torres, Constantino Zicarelli, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, and Jay Pacena.

Renato Habulan, "Liwanag 1" and "Liwanag 2"

Bogie Tence Ruiz on curating the show:  “I gave them no other brief other than think about the present, where  You Tube has infected UTOPIA. It is not Dystopia, just YOUTubia, which is not a failure or a disappointment, but an eye-opener to a new reality, unfolding, mutating, intimidating, still untested and unqualified, but true and undeniably pervasive and contemporary,  about as contemporary as all the Internet, Facebook, Twitter etcetera etcetra.”

Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, "Karaoke Art Project"

This unusual combination of artists actually works for me.  It is perhaps a testament to the respect accorded to Bogie that the artists produced significant pieces.  Not many group shows can boast that achievement.  I especially enjoyed Ling Quisumbing Ramilo’s Karaoke Art Project.  She altered the background images of karaoke songs to that of Philippine art pieces, uploading more than 4,000 photos from her colleagues.  Through this project, she brings art to a new audience, those unable to visit galleries and art spaces.

Tatong Recheta Torres, "Untitled"

For Ling’s other piece, her Static Series, she spent hours in front of the t.v., waiting to photograph faces distorted by static.  She arranged her photos to form a life-sized frame of an empty computer screen, a comment on today’s sensory and information overload.

I also loved Tatong Recheta Torres’ untitled portrait of a disintegrated face.  Frankly, I’m not sure how this relates to You Tube and Utopia, but it is a beautiful painting nevertheless.  He pays tribute to a beloved father figure who passed away last year.  Tatong also reveals that with this piece, he went back to his original process, painting without photo references or grids.

At foreground, Christina Quisumbing Ramilo, "Static Series"

Bogie introduces his caballeros, solo paintings of FPJ and Erap borne by steeds.  They flank a diptych of a mob of movie villains, contravidas slain by the two movie idols in the course of their cinematic careers.  Unfortunately, their prowess could not extend to life beyond the big screen.  Both of them have been browbeaten by a petite adversary, the head of state who takes pride in her resemblance to Nora Aunor. No description can do justice to Bogie’s wonderful use of colors for these three pieces.

By Jose Tence Ruiz

A protest cannot be complete without a burning effigy, and sure enough, EfPIDGEE, burns close by.

Jose Tence Ruiz, "Kabalyero Sa Dalampasigan Sa Tabing Na Bughaw"

There’s a good reason why we’re missing Biboy Delotavo’s murals for this show.  At the end of April, he brings a show of large-scale paintings to the National University of Singapore (NUS).  What we see here are two pieces from his 2008 Artesan show, also in Singapore.  I had only seen photos of these before, and enjoyed this chance to see them in the flesh.

Jose Tence Ruiz, "Kabalyero Sa Puwang ng Gabi't Takipsilim"

Jay Pacena mounts an impressive assemblage of his painted digital prints of subjects on a freefall. Neil Doloricon also uses digital prints painted over with acrylic for U.S. Diplomacy and Na-Edsahan Tayo.  Unlike Jay’s monochromatic grays, he has chosen neon colors to give his pieces a pop, graphic feel.

Jose Tence Ruiz, "Miting De Atrazo"

Mideo Cruz paints!  His Laissez-Faire shows mirror images of the iconic Eddie Adams photograph of a South Vietnamese general executing his Vietcong prisoner.  Portraying a horrific act twice makes it ubiquitous, and consigns it to the commonplace.  We viewers becomes inured to such despicable deeds.

Antipas Delotavo, "P2Pass" and "White Edifice"

My only complaint about the Pablo Baensantos piece, Labor and Monkey Business, on monkeys as politicians (or are the politicians monkeys?) swinging from an LRT station is that it was mounted  high on the wall;  too high to get a good view of its details.  Fortunately, you do not encounter the same problem with Renato Habulan’s Liwanag 1.  You can relish every tattoo on his skinhead’s sinewy arm .

By Jay Pacena

Cos Zicarelli’s two works on paper seem like movie stills to me.  From Bogie: “Iggy Rodriguez’s painting is about the powerful moloch lording over the destruction of the small and weak. Buen Calubayan presents a cycle of death, consumption, and tribute with his images of dead laboratory mice, wakes,  and a video of a boa constrictor devouring another mouse.”

Neil Doloricon, "US Diplomacy" and "Na-Edsahan Ka"

In YouTubia, you get a blend of the traditional and the more contemporary, various interpretations that somehow gel into a satisfying mix.  SR moves on.

Mideo Cruz, "Laissez Faire"

YOUTubia New Works, Effigies, and Videoke runs from 8 April to 2 May 2010 at the Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo (Chino Roces Ave.), Makati.  Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit

Pablo Baens Santos, "Labor Monkey Business"

Buen Calubayan, "Unrehearsed Jazz"

Constantino Zicarelli, "After White Zombie" and "After (After White Zombie)"

Iggy Rodriguez, "Dante's Rest Day"

Special Preview: Biboy Delotavo in Singapore

October 25, 2008

On Nov. 6, Antipas Delotavo opens his show, Street Guide: A Roadmap From Home at the Artesan Art Gallery in Singapore.

Classic Delotavo, the quietness of his canvases conceal the strength of his message. In his hands, the Pinoy OFW emerges from the anonymous multitudes that walk the streets of the city. A tribute from a countryman that feels for their plight.