‘Pambansang Obra’ at The Podium
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - June 7, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  To celebrate the 116th Independence Day of the Philippines, Art+ Magazine teams up with The Podium Mall to present an exhibition that showcases the works of three National Artists as well as a Presidential Medal of Merit Awardee titled “Pambansang Obra.” Artworks by National Artists Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Arturo Luz, and Abdulmari Imao, along with works by Presidential of  Medal of Merit Awardee Juvenal Sanso, will be on view at the second level atrium of The Podium Mall until June 12.

National Artist Dr. Abdulmari Imao’s pioneering practice uses recurring folk motifs drawn from his Sulu heritage, which connects to the wider world of Southeast Asian mythological traditions. This consistent and successful use of folk themes goes beyond the clichéd appropriation of genre scenes common in Philippine art — creating and assuming Southeast Asian archetypes to retell the myths and legends of the culture of his birth. His most familiar motif, for example, the sarimanok, is essentially a link to that story of a rooster in the first of seven heavens. That same motif persists in different Southeast Asian cultures — the serpent Naga of Malaysia, the most evident example. Imao’s art represents a visual rendering of the Philippines’ place within the community of Southeast Asian art and characterizes an important aspect of the national artistic trajectory.

National Artist Arturo Luz, on the other hand, distils figurations into their essential lines, shapes and forms, in effect becoming the pioneer of Philippine minimalism. Transforming the acrobatic jugglers, circus performers and cyclists of the peryas he used to visit in his youth into blocks, circles, colors, and lines, Luz is firm member of the international movement for minimalist abstraction — in the same vein as the likes of Gerardo Rueda, Isamu Noguchi and Fernando Zobel. His series of circus performers are representative of his abstract approach. The abstraction of the human figures is compared to the abstraction of the instruments, and in this sense we have a sensibility of music and fun that is surprising given the artist’s reserved personal demeanour. They combine all these elements in a minimalist celebratory gesture.

National Artist Federico Aguilar Alcuaz is a titan of Philippine visual art, recognized for having influenced an entire generation of artists with a body of works that is critically lauded both here and abroad. Aguilar Alcuaz had the soul of an artist, attaining the pinnacle of mainstream artistic achievement. His complex and nuanced personality — a music lover, bon vivant, and astute observer of the world around him — has cemented his legend as an artist without peer. He was recognized as an artist whose career spanned a multitude of subjects, forms, and media — including painting, sculpture, monumental tapestries, and ceramics. Known for his mischievous personality and his zest for life, which is reflected in a compelling oeuvre, Aguilar Alcuaz was a trailblazing genius with a cosmopolitan aura that, nonetheless, betrayed his pride in being Filipino.

Presidential Medal of Merit Awardee Juvenal Sanso is practically a personification of the Expressionist branch of Philippine Modernism. His trajectory has seen both critical and commercial acclaim in a storied career that both parallels and intersects significant developments in Philippine art. A foremost master, Sanso has had a long and stellar career capped by a number of awards and recognition including a King’s Cross of Isabella knighthood from the King of Spain, membership into the Order of Chevalier from the French Government, and a Presidential Medal of Merit from the Republic of the Philippines. Born in Catalonia in Spain, he grew up in the Philippines and is a product of the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines. He won successive gold medals for watercolor at the 1951 Art Association of the Philippines annual art competition before establishing a highly lauded career as a painter, printmaker and sculptor.

“Pambansang Obra” runs until June 12 at The Podium Mall, ADB Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City. For information, call Art+ Magazine at (632) 723-9418, or email info@contemporaryartphilippines.com.

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