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


Extensions and More at the Lopez Museum

November 11, 2010

Detail, Pilipinas Street Plan mural

What do you get when the Lopez Memorial Museum allows two collectives, one hip artist, and a group that works with prison

Another detail, Pilipinas Street Plan mural

inmates to rifle through its archives and art collection?  One of the best exhibits I’ve seen this year!  (And I think I’ve seen quite a bit.)

Another detail, Pilipinas Street Plan mural, a response to 1734 Velarde map of the Philippines

The curatorial team of the Lopez Museum have always been great at weaving the current into their treasure of trove of Filipino masterpieces.  Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez and Chit Ramirez manage to inject their exhibits with the unexpected, coming up with an inspired mix of artists that have yet to deliver anything boring.  Two years ago, they actually made Amorsolo fun.  Kiri Dalena’s piece for Keeping the Faith (in 2008) also sticks out in my memory.  It captured a turbulent period in Philippine history in an accessible manner, without detracting from its

Pedro Murillo Velarde, "Mapa de las yslas Philippinas", 1734

seriousness. And now, they’ve done it again.

Extensions reiterates that a venerable institution need not get caught in a time warp. It can find novel ways to interact with a contemporary audience. Pilipinas Street Plan is made up of a core group of ten artists who believe in creating ephemeral public art.  In other words, graffiti.  They have made their

Detail, Pilipinas Street Plan mural with vinyl toys

mark in several locales around the country,  adopting nom de guerres to conceal their true identities.  By day, we know them as practicing visual artists whose works grace Manila’s galleries.  After, they transform into street artists.  The acceptance of graffiti as art is, of course, nothing new.  Street artists all over the world have been legitimized into the mainstream by an accepting public.  Witness how the most famous of them all, Banksy, has achieved

More vinyl toys from Pilipinas Street Plan

record auction prices for his pieces.  City councils now consider his works as cultural landmarks. Perhaps having the group work on the Lopez Museum sanitizes the whole concept of graffiti as subversive, as art that appears in unexpected venues.  Still, when the walls of a museum fill up with spray painted graphics juxtaposed against an 18th century map of the Philippines, a painting by Fernando Zobel, and a mixed media assemblage by National Artist J. Elizalde Navarro, you can’t help but relish the experience.

Fernando Zobel, "La Vision", 1961

The murals started out as a response to Pedro Murillo Velarde’s Mapa delas yslas Philippinas from 1734.  The street artists rendered their own version of the country’s map, using stickers to mark the sites where their works can

J. Elizalde Navarro, "Untitled", 1975

be found. Lightboxes and small framed pieces add detail to the painted walls. They also laid out their own versions of vinyl toys —duly graffiti-ed— on the floor.  During the exhibit’s opening, cans of spray paint stood on a makeshift shelf, an encouragement to guests to add their

Detail from Pilipinas Street Plan mural

own piece of art to what had already been done.

In another area of the museum, another collective exhibited its work. Instead of reacting to a piece in the museum’s collection, Plataporma chose to respond to the geographic history of the

Another detail, Pilipinas Street Plan mural

museum itself. For now/here, they play video recordings of random interviews about the Lopez Museum conducted within a 1 kilometer radius of the past, present, and future museum sites.  By the entrance to their exhibit space, the artists recreated a Manansala mural that had been demolished when the old museum in Pasay was torn down. To enter into their space, one crosses a short wooden bridge.  This symbolizes the transition from the “old” museum to its current site.  The bridge crosses over a stylized excavation site filled with mud that had actually been transported from the museum’s original location.

Cans of spray paint ready for use

Maya Muñoz takes over the first gallery, across the reception desk at the main entrance.  The museum uses this space to house works that transit from different locations.  Maya herself is an artist who works in two locales:  Manila and Bicol.  Her painting, Coming and Going, deals with

Maya Munoz, "Coming and Going", 2010

exile and home.  She started this piece after she had done a series of drawings that depicted either Ninoy Aquino on the tarmac or a triumphant Manny Pacquiao, two hometown heroes who have had to leave home to achieve glory. Her massive quadriptych (its four panels measure a total of about eight feet by 16 feet) started out as a self-portrait which evolved into a painting of planes.  The piece echoes the journeys inherent to the life of a person who commutes between two places she calls home.

Maya Munoz, from "Days Go By" drawings series

Loob at Labas, from Rock Ed Philippines, completes the exhibition.  Their volunteers have undertaken Rock The Rehas to use art, specifically creative writing, to give inmates at the National Penitentiary in

More drawings from Maya Munoz "Days Go By" series

Muntinglupa access to new experiences.  Photos of  the New Bilibid Prison taken from the Lopez Museum archives, crafts created by the prisoners, and objects taken from within the prison add even more power to a video that runs images of the prisoners’ written work.

Extensions runs from 11 November 2010 to 20 April 2011 at the Lopez Memorial Museum, Ground Floor, Benpres Building, Exchange Road cor. Meralco Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig.  Phone  (632) 631-2417 or visit

Maya Munoz, "Days Go By" drawings series

Federico Alcuaz, "Filipiny XIV", tapestry, 1983

For "Loob at Labas", Rock Ed Philippines, photos from Lopez Museum archives of New Bilibid prison

Photos from Lopez Museum archives, New Bilibid Prison

Photo from Lopez Museum archives, New Bilibid Prison

From Lopez Museum photo archives, New Bilibid Prison

Rock the Rehas

For "now/here", Plataporma recreation of Manansala Mural at old Lopez Museum in Pasay

For "now/here", Plataporma installation

For "now/here", Plataporma videos

The Romantic in Maya Munoz

August 29, 2009
Maya Munoz, "Epilogue"

Maya Munoz, "Epilogue"

Maya Munoz, "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her Face"

Maya Munoz, "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her Face"

The last time we saw Maya Munoz  she gave us bleak landscapes,  infinite horizons of black and white and gray.   These days, as she

Maya Munoz, "The Romanticist"

Maya Munoz, "The Romanticist"

muses on the love story of Orpheus and Eurydice, she injects something different.  She surrounds her paintings of  singular figures with a joyous palette:  backgrounds in vivid purple and ocean blues, splashes of rouge and yellow, blossoms in mandarin and fuchsia.  But don’t take that to mean that Maya’s work has resorted to triteness, to illustrating love through sunshine and flowers.  At the foreground of her pieces, she depicts her figures in silhouettes, dark shadows that portend sad endings.  Every great romance culminates in tragedy after all.  Nothing illustrates this more than the tale of Orpheus, Apollo’s son, who braves the underworld to bring his Eurydice back to light, only to lose her forever with a glance.

Maya Munoz, "12 Minutes, Coz"

Maya Munoz, "12 Minutes, Coz"

The Romanticist by Maya Munoz runs from 29 August to 19 September 2009 at The Drawing Room, 1007 Metropolitan Avenue, Makati City.   Phone (632)897-7877 or visit

Maya Munoz, "There She Goes My Beautiful World"

Maya Munoz, "There She Goes My Beautiful World"

Maya Munoz, "For Orpheus, The Necessity of Dreaming"

Maya Munoz, "For Orpheus, The Necessity of Dreaming"

Maya Munoz, "Tonight When You Dream of the Sun"

Maya Munoz, "Tonight When You Dream of the Sun"

Viewing Paulino Que’s Collection of Young Contemporary Artists (aka, The I Wish They Were Mine Show)

March 16, 2009


Three years ago, Ambeth Ocampo arranged for the

Kim Atienza and Ayala Museum's Ken Esguerra with Jojo Legaspi's "St Thelma"

Kim Atienza and Ayala Museum's Ken Esguerra with Jojo Legaspi's "St Thelma"

Board of Trustees of the Museum Foundation of the Philippines to view Paulino and Hetty Que’s collection of Philippine art and historical objets.  Ambeth, perhaps only half-kidding, dubbed the occasion the tour of the”… real National Gallery”.  As he took us through the assembly of works, from Juan Luna’s canvases, to Fabian dela Rosa’s landscapes, then onto the Amorsolos, and the Thirteen Moderns, from the Ben Cabs to the Ang Kiukoks, we realized what Ambeth meant.  The staggering display covered the whole gamut of Philippine art history from Damian Domingo’s Academia de Dibujo to the 1980s.  

Alfredo Esquillo Jr., "The Thomasites Were Here"

Alfredo Esquillo Jr., "The Thomasites Were Here"

Geraldine Javier and Ateneo's Leo Garcia with her piece, "Bubbles In His Head"

Geraldine Javier and Ateneo's Leo Garcia with her piece, "Bubbles In His Head"

Trust a collector like Paulino Que to keep up with the times.  What had not been on view then, he shares with Philippine art lovers now as he brings out his collection of young contemporaries.  What a treat to see the best of the best of paintings from 1996 to today, from the most celebrated and exciting artists we currently follow.  

View from upstairs of Elmer Borlongan's "Solo Show"

View from upstairs of Elmer Borlongan's "Solo Show"

Thank you to Paulino for generously sharing a part of his collection, and allowing us the privilege to witness contemporary art history in the making.

Kawayan De Guia, "Subtle Repercussions A"

Kawayan De Guia, "Subtle Repercussions A"

Yael Buencamino, Gerry Tan, and Mark Justiniani's "Roundtrip Overload"

Yael Buencamino, Gerry Tan, and Mark Justiniani's "Roundtrip Overload"

John and Pam Santos with John's piece, "Behind the Scenes"

John and Pam Santos with John's piece, "Behind the Scenes"

Of the 21 pieces up on Finale’s huge walls,  there are a few that I wish I could wrap up and hang on mine:  Jojo Legaspi’s St. Thelma tops my list.  No one else depicts stark terror and anger as finely as he does.  You feel the profanity come to life.  Then, Geraldine Javier at her lyrical and melancholic best with Bubbles in His Head.  So sadly beautiful.  I wish I had the means to commission Behind the Scenes by Jose Santos III.  John just keeps getting better and better.  The Thomasites Were Here  brings us  another of Alfredo Esquillo Jr’s excellently- rendered commentaries on Philippine historical events.   Too bad I don’t have the space for this triptych (as if!).  And I must say I also love Kawayan De Guia’s  Subtle Repercussions A which I find to be the most contemporary of the bunch. 

Robert Langenegger, "Rolling Paperworks" and Louie Cordero, "Untitled"

Robert Langenegger, "Rolling Paperworks" and Louie Cordero, "Untitled"

Would love to hear your favorites!











Mona and Soler Santos viewing Annie Cabigting's "Viewing Bacon"

Mona and Soler Santos viewing Annie Cabigting's "Viewing Bacon"








Figuring The Times, Philippine Paintings 1996 to 2009, A Selection from the Paulino Que Collection is on view at Finale Art File from 13 March to 3 April 2009.  Finale is located at Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, Pasong Tamo, Makati.  Phone (632) 810-4071 or visit  For more information on Geraldine Javier visit