Diosdado Lorenzo and the History of Philippine Art
- Sid Gomez Hildawa () - April 2, 2006 - 12:00am
"Can one teach Philippine art history without mentioning Diosdado Lorenzo?" was the candid comment of my art histo-rian friend when we discus-sed the qualifications of various nominees for a national award. The ten-uous relationships between art and history can be viewed in various ways, as the ongoing 60-Year Retrospective Exhibition on Diosdado Lorenzo at the Cultural Center of the Philippines hopes to demonstrate.

First, we can regard art as belonging to no particular time, and in best cases able to transcend it. Trained in the classical tradition and further exposed to the cultural heritage of Europe, Diosdado Lorenzo was an artist who believed in the ability of art to be timeless. A painting could fix a scene in memory, and a masterpiece could be a means to immortality.

In this mode, the art of Lorenzo may be scrutinized in terms of his masterful impasto technique, his eye for tropical colors, the sure stroke of his brush that does not conceal its tracks. His works were "built to last", even as they confronted traditional ways of choosing subjects and rendering the nuances of light.

Lorenzo’s works have outlived him, and will outlive the various subjects and sceneries they have portrayed. Connoisseurs and collectors, both public and private, have acknowledged the timelessness of his works by ascribing high market values to these difficult-to-acquire pieces.

Another way of relating art to history would be to consider art as a product of its time, so that artworks become reflections of their historical contexts. Thus, the exhibition includes memorabilia items: photographs, news clippings, certificates and citations, medals, paints and paint brushes, etc.; and to some degree has allowed these items to share the same exhibit spaces as the paintings.

For in this view, artworks themselves are artifacts of history no different from the easel that supports the frame. Diosdado Lorenzo lived in interesting times, and among great artists like Victorio Edades, Galo Ocampo, and Carlos Francisco. It would be enlightening to find out, for instance, what the landscape paintings say about Lorenzo’s hometown of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, during the early twentieth century.

A bulk of the works gathered for this retrospective spanning drawings and paintings done from 1924 to the year of Diosdado’s death in 1984 come from members of the Lorenzo family, who have safeguarded many of their father’s oevure for future generations to appreciate. This exhibit thus becomes a family reunion, literally and figuratively, as portraits of mothers and children come to be displayed alongside those of grandparents, and as children now share with us the paintings they have grown up with.

Finally, we can also regard art as part of histories that are still being written and therefore open to revisions and transformations. Awards are conferred by panels of judges whose interpretations of the past are never absolute. The practice of one’s art should be reward in itself; the paintings of Diosdado exude a kind of exuberance in their making that must have been solace for the artist at a time when modernism was a form of rebellion.

This retrospective exhibition thus hopes to contribute to a re-valuation of Lorenzo’s significance in Philippine Art, not just as a historical bridge between the Conservatives and the Modernists, but rather as a continuing contemporary influence.

The author is the Director for Visual, Literary, and Media Arts of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He co-curates the Diosdado Lorenzo Retrospective Exhibition with organizers Prof. Socorro Sapnit and Dr. Emmanuel Ortencio. The exhibit is open for public viewing until April 30. Gallery hours are from 10am to 6pm daily, except Mondays and holidays. Admission is free.

ART CARLOS FRANCISCO CONSERVATIVES AND THE MODERNISTS CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES DIOSDADO DIOSDADO LORENZO DIOSDADO LORENZO RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION DR. EMMANUEL ORTENCIO GALO OCAMPO LORENZO MEDIA ARTS OF THE CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES
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