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Setting up ‘Chromatext Rebooted’

One of Edd Aragon’s carved books from found wood.

Really have to hand it to my comadre, Jean Marie Syjuco, artist non-pareil, art curator of the first order, master of a proficient system built on diligence and intuition. What she did in three days of ingress and installation for the “Chromatext Rebooted” art show at the Main Gallery and Hallway of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which opened last Friday and will remain on exhibit till Jan. 17, was something like organizing a NASA launch. Or orchestrating the surprise success of a period film like Heneral Luna. Or bringing the AlDub phenom to a record-breaking number of tweets.

Forgive me for casting hyperbole out the window and into outer space. But she really deserves all those comparisons to stellar achievements. She put together an art exhibit involving 130 participants who sent in multiple works, until the very last minute, engineered the venue into suitable areas in which to allocate the diversity of submissions, and arranged the way everything was hung or installed without paying obeisance to horror vacui.

Well, she had some help. The CCP’s art installer Jun Jarme commanded a crew of carpenters and wall painters that took the cues from Jean Marie, whose daughters Trix and Maxine and trained house help also pitched in with the arrangements. Participant Al Sibal was there for all three days, unselfishly laying out not just his own installation but those of others. Hermisanto planted sheaves of reeds titled “Tanim Tinting Hindi Tanim Bala” for a dominant display on the hallway that indicates what else may be expected as bountiful harvest inside.

 

 

 

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While I am listed as a co-curator (a throwback to the “Chromatext Reloaded” exhibit in 2007 when dear departed Sid Gomez Hildawa, Jean Marie and I shared credits), my function was simply to sound the call for poet and writer friends, as well as visual artists, to join this sequel after eight years.

The first two “Chromatext” exhibits that married the literary and visual arts were actually mounted in the early 1980s at the now fabled Pinaglabanan Galleries run by premier sculptor Agnes Arellano. It was Sid who brought up the idea of a grand revival at CCP after more than two decades. And now this, where we had the privilege of contemporary tradition, a mythos of camaraderie to uphold, past participants to call on for a reprise, and certainly a new generation and expanded circle of kindred spirits eager to help circle the wagons.

In 2007, we had 87 poet-and-artist-friends participating. We issued the new call earlier this year, for “artworks based on, coupled with, or related to words/poems/prose, or any kind of visual art executed by poets/writers, including abstract, sculptural, conceptual and digital works.” Also encouraged were collaborations between writers and artists.

The response was terrific, in fact increasingly alarming as we approached zero hour. The process helped build character, as my flimsy vestige of curmudgeonly patience was stretched thin with fraying commitments and broken promises, all spelling wanton disregard for deadines. But the Syjucos calmed me down and carried on with their characteristic self-assurance, confident that we would have an infinitely variegated and exciting cornucopia of works, and that they would all be set up on time.

Stuff, not “stuffs,” mind you, were mailed in or couriered from many faraway places. From the USA, we had contributions from poet-authors Luisa Igloria, Eileen Tabios, R. Zamora Linmark, writer-artists Fran Ng, Aileen Ibardolaza-Casinetti and Vics Magsaysay, visual artist and master tattooist Mel Vera Cruz, poet-photographer Melissa Nolledo, and adopted Fil-Am Tim Tomlinson, whom we didn’t require to tear up his American passport or renounce any sort of citizenship. 

From Canada, the acclaimed tapestry artist Bert Monterona sent in a typically colorful roll-down canvas with native configurations and text. Old buddy John Altomonte couriered his sterling contribution from Australia, while Alwin Reamillo, who is also presently Down Under, had someone here hand in his entry at the last minute.

From Singapore came works by award-winning painter, humorist and editorial cartoonist Dengcoy Miel and author-editor Noelle de Jesus, the latter in collaboration with locally based artist Camile Quintos of the Ateneo and UP.

The Baguio delegation included Palanca Prize record-holder Ed Maranan, premier artist Roger Rishab Tibon, anthropologist and author Padmapani Perez and her installation collaborator Kelly Ramos, Solana Perez, Dumay Solinggay, and journalists Desiree Caluza and Frank Cimatu.

Dumaguete was well-represented by Kitty Taniguchi, Elle Divine, Hersley-Ven Casero and Annabelle Lee Adriano, while Peque Gallaga sent in his superlative work from Bacolod. Cebu had poet Shane Carreon in collaboration with painter Palmy Marinel Pe-Tudtud, as well as Ilongga poet Karla Quimsing. From Mindanao came contributions from the usual suspects: poet-artists Tita Lacambra Ayala and Margarita Marfori of Davao and Jaime An Lim of Iligan.

Guest of honor at Fraiday’s opening was National Artist Cirilo F. Bautista, co-founder of the Philippine Literary Arts Council or PLAC, which initiated these Chromatext series. National Artists Virgilio S. Almario, Bien Lumbera and BenCab are well-represented with poem collaborations and portraits of writers, respectively. 

The first large space upon entering the hall is mostly given over to our National Artists, PLAC stalwarts Jimmy Abad, Ricky de Ungria, Juaniyo Arcellana, Marj Evasco and Susan Lara, together with our beloved sister Agnes Arellano and her partner Billy Bonnevie. Elsewhere in the hall are contributions from our devoted suki Heber Bartolome, Danny Sillada, Beaulah Taguiwalo, and Junyee who kept saying during the ingress period that “Chromatext” should be mounted yearly. Hey, hope not.

Vim and Wika Nadera, Mario and Maningning Miclat, Virgilio “Pandy” and Diana Aviado, Jimmy Abad and Cyan Abad Jugo are among the filial participants, while a full art-labbing family is represented by the Syjucos, including patrician Cesare and eldest daughter Michelline. Conjugal collaborations were done by Butch and Beng Dalisay, Karen Ann Capco-Yumul and Nelson Edward Yumul, and Celina Cristobal and Nap Jamir, among others. 

Our recent loss, Edd Aragon, is posthumously represented by a stunning set of carved wooden books as stool seats, collectively titled “Seats Booked.” Also honored by their living art, or paid tribute to, are Sid Hildawa, Alan Rivera, Manigning Miclat, and PLAC poet Freddie Salanga.

Jenny Ortuoste embroidered mild invectives, including a suddenly popular “Punyeta” that quickly attracted interest from a co-participant from abroad, so much so that FB Private Messages conducted on the eve of the opening led to a sale, the first for Chromatext Rebooted, sealed before it even opened.

Now I hope I don’t miss out on any of the 130 names we’ve tagged on the walls, or maybe something else materializes at  ultima ahora, punyeta! But here’s the roster of other contributors:

Anne Carly Abad, Reuel Molina Aguila, Kristian Jeff Agustin, Hermes Alegre, Cesar G. Aljama, Ditas A. Antenor, Ed Arcilla, Kim Balbuena, César Caballero, Edwin Diamante, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Florence Cinco, Gerry Cornejo, Chatty Coronel, Rev Cruz, Godfrey T. Dancel, Eric David, Joey G. Diokno, Alex Fleites, Raul “Tata” Funilas, Marc Gaba, Lai Gelu, Jaggy Glarino, Jeremy Guiab, Ramil Digal Gulle, Hermi Santo, Junyee, Pete Lacaba, Marta Lovina, Little Wing Luna, Asha Macam, Edber Mamisao, Red Mansueto, Jeff Mendoza, Jose Carlo Mendoza, Claire Alcoba Miranda, Jason Moss, Danilo Pangan, Gary Ross Pastrana, Sam Penaso, Richie Quirino, Mikee Reyes, Thelma Rivera, Mav Rufino, Angel Velasco Shaw, Leon Alberto Sibal, Judy Freya Sibayan, Christine Sicangco, Jun-Jun Sta. Ana, Beaulah Taguiwalo, Jack Teotico, Orville Tiamson, Gino Tioseco, Roy Veneracion, Pancho C. Villanueva, Jenette Vizcocho, Jenifer Wofford, Sonny Yñiguez, and Hugo Yonzon III. 

As of this writing, we are hours away from the grand opening. But from the looks of the preliminary set-up, thanks to everyone who pitched in and the genius of Jean Marie Syjuco, it promises to be an extravaganza of creative delights.

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