Pow Martinez Destroys Planets

August 24, 2011

Pow Martinez liberally throws around the word astig.  He uses it nonchalantly, with a casual shrug.

Pow Martinez, "Punk House #1", detail

Exhibit installation view

George Condo, the American artist who paints caricature-like figures with pursed lips, bulging eyes, and scrunched up heads?  He’s astigPhilip Guston and his cartoonish renderings?  Yup, him too.  Ditto the Scottish animator David Shrigley, and provocateur Dash Snow, he of the hedonistic lifestyle who died of an overdose two years ago.  On the local front, the word is reserved for the likes of Manuel Ocampo and Jayson Oliveria, purveyors of chaotic and sexually explicit images.

Clearly, the inclinations of this boyish, 28-year-old Ateneo Art Awards winner do not lean towards order and discipline, or anything remotely intense. He admits that his decision to become an artist stemmed from a distaste for academic work.  “Hindi ako mahilig mag-aral”, a realization that prompted him to attempt UP College of Fine Arts.  He discovered that that too required some sort of effort.  Pow moved to Kalayaan College’s program after UP kicked him out for his grades (“Sumobra sa inom at sa jutes!”).

Pow Martinez, "Earth 3040 1"

While in Kalayaan, classmate and friend, Robert Langenegger, drew him to the independent art space Big Sky Mind where Roberto Chabet, the iconic UP professor and former director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, conducted workshops and lectures.

Pow Martinez, "Earth 3040 2"

Para siyang Jedi Master”, Pow describes Chabet, considered by Manila’s art community as the pioneer of Philippine conceptual art.  Here he found kindred spirits.  “I realized na puede pala yung ganun, yung art na impolite, na messy. Yung art na gusto ko.

Initially, Pow was drawn to more conceptual works, producing sound installations that jive with his predilection for punk music.  He decided to paint two years ago, filling his canvases with thick dabs and smears of brightly colored paint, with crude figures that gravitate to the lowbrow, a nod to German artist Jonathan Meese (another astig).  He called his paintings ridiculous. But that 2009 exhibit at West Gallery, 1 Billion Years, wowed the Ateneo Art Awards panel of jurors for its refreshing move away from the photorealistic images that permeated the auction circuit.

Three more solo exhibits have since followed: Hyper Blast Abominations in Mag: net and March of the Pigs at LOST Projects in 2010,

Pow Martinez, "Wreck Yard #1" and "Wreck Yard #2"

and Cut Hands Has The Solution, a return to West Gallery early this year.  In between, Pow has been featured in numerous group shows.  He also participated in a survey of contemporary Philippine art organized by Manuel Ocampo for the Freies Museum in Berlin last October.  He laughingly recalls how one of the museum visitors told him that his work was the worst painting he had ever seen in his life.  “Ok lang ‘yon. I want my paintings to take up your space. Na touch ko pa rin siya.

Destroyed Planets, Pow’s solo exhibit at Pablo Fort, has drawings, paintings, an installation piece, and featured a performance from Pow on opening night. His paintings and drawings keep to his cluttered, rough, and raunchy aesthetic, but play with more abstracted forms.

For someone with such a laidback, relaxed approach to art, Pow counts among the busiest of today’s young visual artists.  Concurrent to the Pablo show, he has a two-person exhibt at DAGC Gallery, and has works on view at NOW Gallery.  He draws every day, filling sketchbooks in the Commonwealth Avenue studio he shares with girlfriend and fellow artist, Maria Jeona Zoleta.

There is an authenticity that emanates from Pow’s work despite his seemingly inconsequential subjects. He brushes off his success, almost as if it were accidental, even irrelevant.  He would not do things any other way.  As he scans the half-finished canvases that lean against the walls, Pow describes the essence of what he hopes to convey: “What if gago ang mundo?”

Is that astig or what?

Pow Martinez, "Destroyed Planet #3", detail

Destroyed Planets runs from 20 August to 24 September 2011 at Pablo Fort, Unit C-11 South of Market Condominium, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.  Phone (632) 5060602 or visit http://www.pablogalleries.com

An edited version of this post appears in the August 2011 issue of Rogue Magazine.  See http://www.rogue.ph

Reconstructions from Bea Camacho

September 11, 2010

Bea Camacho's reconstruction of a chandelier

Predictably, Bea Camacho mounts a spare, austere show at Pablo.  With Standard Fiction, as she has done before, she trims off the fat and fluff, leaving the viewer with work that’s picked clean, sans whimsy, but full of content and meaning.  Bea’s work frequently culls from her family’s story, but told bereft of sentiment and emotion.  She reduces life-changing events to clinical, antiseptic, measurable units—blocks on a graph, or indentations on paper.  Here she attempts to recapture memories and impressions of their family home as it undergoes demolition and renovation. Bea presents us with the idea that once an object is destructed, attempts to reassemble it will result in another object,  not what it originally was.  Reconstruction does not give us back what we lost, but rather something else altogether.

Bea Camcho reconstructs a room, photo transfer on folded bedsheet

As we enter Pablo, we are confronted with a clumsy, wooden chandelier hanging in the middle of the space.  This is the first of Bea’s reconstructions, an attempt to bring back some form of the light fixture that used to grace their home.  By choosing to remember it in another material, she leaves us with its crude facsimile.

In the gallery’s loft, she fills the walls with more reconstructions.  Bea

Another attempt to reconstruct a room, photo transfer on folded bedsheet

transfers four photographs of empty rooms onto crisp, white bedsheets.  The sheets have been folded and encased beneath glass.  The photos show four rooms stripped bare, even the fixtures that once had been nailed to its walls have been torn down.  The photos capture their outlines, mere traces of the originals.

Another photo transfer on a folded bed sheet

Bea underscores the impossibility of exact reconstructions in her attempt to reproduce a carpet that lingers in her memory.  She encases a forest green swatch along with a strip from a photocopied Pantone guide.  Because a  cheap photocopy from a sidewalk copier fails to translate the color faithfully, the carpet cannot be cloned.  None of the presented shades of green capture its color.

Recontstructing a carpet from memory

Next to this, Bea hangs two framed works, each holding two typed up sheets of paper formatted like pages from a book. . These show Bea’s attempts to reconstruct pages 126-127 and 128-129 of  Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel, The Imaginary based, I surmise, on some mnemonic code.  This yields, inevitably, to gibberish.

Reconstructing Sartre

It can be argued that in today’s high-tech world of instants, Bea’s premises fall flat, especially when used for inanimate objects.  What she actually examines is the concept of reconstruction as transformation.  The two white ceramic mugs, perched almost unnoticed on the gallery’s narrow wall, show this best.  The mugs each sport a pattern taken from bathroom and swimming pool tiles from the family home.  Bea produced the mugs in the same material as the tiles (ceramic), mimicking, to a certain degree, their original function (as receptacles of water).  However, they have been resurrected—totally transformed— into completely different objects.  Memory and imagination have interfered with the process of re-creation.  Fact has been reconstructed into fiction.

Transforming tile patterns into coffee mugs

Standard Fiction runs from 28 August to 9 October 2010 at Pablo Fort, Unit C-11 South of Market Condominium, Fort Bonifacio Global City, (632)506-0602 or visit http://www.pablogalleries.com

Dex Fernandez and His Incredible Low Brows

January 19, 2010

Dex Fernandex, "Untitled 6"

For those willing to brave the winter winds and record temperature drops of New York in January, Robert Williams‘ exhibit of paintings and sculpture, Conceptual Realism, runs until the third week of the month.  For the rest of us, the James Kalm Report of artist Loren Munk provides a great taste of this show on YouTube.  Next month, Williams, founder of Juxtapoz magazine, will exhibit more of his work at the Whitney Biennial.

At roughly the same time that Williams’ show opened in November 2009,  fashionista favorite W came out with its art issue.  They devoted a two-page spread to Williams’ former colleague, artist R. Crumb,  featuring his illustrations, specially created for the magazine, amongst splashes on the latest from Miu Miu and Jil Sander.  The accessibility now accorded to both Williams and Crumb offer positive proof that an art movement that had collectively been dismissed with the label Low Brow has been elevated to the status of the mainstream.

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 5", a high priestess comfortable in her own skin

Here in Manila, while we have been slow on the uptake, purveyors of this crass, perhaps even gross, representations of  the excrement of life, rendered in the manner of comic-book drawings, have had their own successes.  We have seen this especially in the last half-decade.  Late last year, Robert Langenegger had his Paris come out.  Louie Cordero, who has shown in New York, contiues to make waves with his current Hong Kong exhibit at Osage, the gallery that represents him in the former Crown Colony.  And now, enter Dex Fernandez with -+*.

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 3", the non-believer who mocks faith symbols. Letters at back DILLIGAF stand for "Do I Look Like I Give A Fuck?"

In this first solo exhibit, mounted  at Pablo in Taguig, Dex uses photos of his friends and family as the base of his fascinating mixed media pieces.  He prints the photos on archival paper and adds textures and layers to striking fruition.  Dex piles on images in acrylic, ink,  or embroidery, and also cuts patterns through the paper.  His pieces resemble the pages of a much-doodled, R-rated scrapbook.  Dont’ expect to see them on the walls of the squeamish.

Dex lets loose on what he calls ” the little monsters we’ve been keeping inside ourselves” bringing to the fore some of the good, most of the bad, and a whopping amount of the ugly and vulgar.  These manipulations serve as frank commentaries on either his subjects’ characteristics (he labels his father an impotent machine and  gently mocks his mother’s  need for false teeth), their emotional states (two women falling, reflecting on  wasted youth), or their political and religious views (a fool giving Catholic  icons the finger).

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 4". Characters translate to "She's wearing a nice dress"

Congratulations to Dex for this awesome debut! With his fifteen compelling pieces, he proves that definitely, even here in Manila, Low Brow has  risen to high art.

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 10", symbols of freedom and liberty are stamped onto this image

Dex Fernandex, "Untitled 7", reflections on wasted youth and life's fluctuations

-+* Dex Fernandez First Solo Exhibit runs from 20 January to 24 February 2010 at PABLO Fort, Unit C-11 South of Market Condominium, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.  Phone (632) 986-3887 or visit http://www.pablogalleries.com

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 12"

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 8"

All smiles from the man of the hour!

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 13"

Dex Fernandez, "Untitled 1" and "Untitled 2", Dex's parents