Exploring the idea that the face represents the persona with which one confronts the world and how penetrable these public facades can be, Lopez Memorial Museum presents About Face. The exhibit features works by contemporary artists xVRx, Renan Ortiz, Louie Talents and Alvin Zafra.
These include works by Juan Luna, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Macario Vitalis, Fabian de la Rosa, Vicente Manansala, Juvenal Sanso, Fernando Amorsolo, Benedicto Cabrera, Fernando Zobel and the extensive Rizaliana holdings in light of the 150th birth commemoration of Dr. Jose Rizal.
As the museum has established a reputation for being a repository of Lunas and Hidalgos and rare Filipiniana, museum curatorial consultant Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez said that the artists were asked to “consider images within the museum and library archive collections in taking on the proposed theme.” She added “The intention is to have contemporary artists look upon the practice of pictorially rendering personage as a means of circulating a persona or a public face, as opposed to a repressed alter ego or possibly a totally fictitious avatar.”
A number of today’s modern artists, apart from blazing new trails of self-expression, also imbue their works with a concern for the plight of their subjects, who often enough are ordinary folk. A few are depicted as victims of their conditions; others are portrayed with a sense of endurance and hope, from quietly accepting their fate, to openly confronting their adversaries. The larawan then has come full circle from the image of the hero in the past, it now encompasses the common tao, who is by his simple, unceasing toil in himself a hero. – Regalado Trota Jose, “Filling in the Face of the Filipino,” Larawan Immortality and Identity in Filipino Portraiture (1988-89).
The featured artists used and incorporated portraits including the less explored aspects of the collection such as its Rizaliana holdings and its LVN still archives, among others.
Zafra who has exhibited his work in various galleries in the Philippines as well as in Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore and Hong Kong, did a portrait of President Emilio Aguinaldo that he found in the book “I Shot the Presidents” by Honesto Vitug. He said that “I use my fingernails as drawing medium on fine sandpaper. .. It’s blank. You only see his upper garment and some elements of the background where the photo was taken. I think of it as a reaction to my own art practice as well.”
Ortiz , who was awarded the Sinugdanan Grant by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in 2007, takes on Rizal and Indio-Spanish dialectics in three multimedia installations cutting across the museum’s galleries.
Talents who was awarded a scholarship grant from the Ecole Nationale Superieure Des Beaux- Arts and the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts Best Thesis Award, also mounted a multimedia work exploring notions of itinerancy and registration of self in relation to sacred verse and texts by Rizal. He called his installation ‘Playing with Matchsticks’. He said: “The burning as part of my process resonates since my method combines a technical meditative approach and a childhood penchant for burning as a device to decorate the edges of cards.”
xVRx who has participated in arts festivals and residency programs such as Outlooke Pointe Foundation and AX (is) Art Project Baguio City, shows a stenciled portrait of an old man, dually alluding to images of everyday life repurposed and sited surreptitiously in luminal urban space.
The expression, although modified by the face’s character and age, is always similar. Its intensity is not a question of emotion, or pleasure or pain. The face looks straight at me and without words, by the expression of the eyes alone, it affirms the reality of its existences. As if my gaze had called out a name, and the face by returning it, was answering, “Present!” – John Berger, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos (1984).
About Face touches on the practice portraiture but is not solely about pictures of proposed selves. In a broader sense, the exhibition is about facades– human and institutional– what we pose up front for others to come to know us through. The title can also mean, “a complete change of opinion, plan or behavior,” In other words reversalin Renan Ortiz’ Tayon-Igkas-Ugoy. Tayon is a tagalog word which means “Swinging or pendulous movement such as of a hanging object. It is similar to tayong which means “temporary suspensionor delay of something being done.” The lightness of the silk material as well as the structure of the piece may point to the idea of tayon and ugoy but what element/s point to igkas? What do tayon, igkas, and ugoy have in common and how do these words relate to the image of Rizal, or how we view the image of Rizal. In this work we are able to see Rizal’s face by means of the mirror below, but his image is obscured by the red liquid in which it is immersed.
Since the face is usually the most immediate registration of a sense of self before a public, we also attempt here to see how porous or penetrable these representations can actually be. In a much more limited sense, About Face can also be construed as an allusion to reversals–forsaken positions, turns of fate, refusals of portrayals, frontal confrontations, acts of concealment inversions of the seen and unseen.