Sex in the (Bonifacio Global) City
Max Balatbat with his daughter Sheldang Balatbat

Sex in the (Bonifacio Global) City

Pepper Teehankee (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2021 - 12:00am

In your face, as gritty and as unpretentious as the metro’s unkempt and worn-out streets, Max Balatbat regales his audience with the rough realities that he has grown up with in the heart of Caloocan City through his solo show “Puta sa Ikatlong Abenida” (The Prostitutes on Third Avenue) at Art Verite? Gallery in BGC.

Balatbat was born in 1978 in Caloocan City and studied architecture at the Far Eastern University in Manila in 1995. In 1997, he decided to take Fine Arts instead at the University of the East in Caloocan. He completed his degree in Fine Arts with a major in Advertising and was awarded as one of UE’s Exemplary Performance in Visual Arts.

He has participated in several international solo and group exhibitions in Vienna, London, Florence, The Hague, Essen, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Seoul, and Beijing.

His works for this exhibit took inspiration from the “International Cabaret,” a brothel in Caloocan’s red-light district where he spent some of his younger years in the company of prostitutes.

Different from his usual collages of geometric abstractions, his protagonists in this unlikely tale of morality are the street-smart prostitutes that work the third avenue where the International Cabaret is located.

Balatbat presents a sympathetic personal view of the brash sex workers who earnestly turn tricks to scrape a living, simultaneously questioning our assumptions of what is truly moral.

Using his trademark collages of patterned paint sheets, he creates a series of eerie portraits of bare-breasted women with highly textured faces assembled from crumpled paint sheets that interestingly contrast with the largely flat construction of the rest of the work.

He also debuts the use of acrylic skin on acrylic, a medium he only came to use particularly in this show. He presents his poetry in this show as well.

Balatbat’s use of different mediums (or is it media) for his art is what made me curious about his work, which I just discovered a few years ago. He remains one of my favorite and most respected artists.

The show is, in his words “dark, dense, chaotic.”  Do check it out before it closes tomorrow, March 12. For inquiries, contact Art Verite? Gallery at info@artveritegallery.com.


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Follow me on Instagram @pepperteehankee.

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