by Cid Reyes
Hybrid, from the Latin hybrida, is defined easily enough as the combination of two different things, a blending of diverse cultures and traditions, races, breeds, varieties, or species.
But as the title of a group exhibition, it seems to be more than just appropriate; the various artworks create their own unique dynamics, characterized at once by harmony, conflict and tension, due to the hybridity of differing painting styles, themes, and color schemes. While they are gathered, sharing the same space and time continuum, they all beat the same path towards the viewer’s hearts and minds.
Adrian Jay Manuel has found the perfect metaphor for the subject, the issue, that has so haunted and wounded the country: corruption in the government. Using the image of the apple – with its attendant expression “rotten to the core” – the artist gathers a congress of mutating monsters, enclosed within the heart of a gleaming delicious red apple. Representing the elected leaders of our land, who won the votes of the people through sweet promises that were never fulfilled, our politicians have sunk to a level of depredation unseen in the sad history of our country. Symbolizing a noble Juan dela Cruz, topped by a kingly crown, the figure exposes to the public the shameless venality of politicians that become the worm curdling at the core of the apple.
There’s more to Jonathan Joven’s unique way of presenting his scenario. Called the worm’s eye view – as seen from the ground. From here we see an impoverished Filipino family subsisting on a humble meal, an unconventional way of viewing reality, from which we never seem to rise. The idea of the worm is also most appropriate, especially now when hunger and disease, tragedy and natural devastation stalk our land. When we are all several feet under the ground, our remains will be the welcome feast for worms.
The greatest irony of civilized man in the 21st century is the insidious way in which humanity is being transformed by technology into machine-like creatures. Dicky Santos juxtaposes, in his own words, “chat symbols, emoticons, internet slang words, memes” as the equivalence of human emotions, or digital love. No one can be in denial that communication, the transference of messages, whether business or personal, whether for the public or intimates, is now effected through texting. This is not, of course, to denigrate the value of communications technology, without which we can no longer imagine our world, nor conduct our lives with such convenience, speed and efficiency. The artist merely reminds us that we should never lose our basic humanity, the love that sustains and nourishes each and every human being.
Has man’s best friend coveted the persona of his master? Or has man now assumed the nature of a beast? No matter how one perceives the work of Reybert Ramos, whether in the negative or in the positive, one cannot deny the immediate shock of the juxtaposed images of man and canine. Whatever possessed the artist? To be sure, his portraits – for indeed they are portraits in presentation – have been so rendered with an almost tender finesse that no trace of beastly hostility can be felt. Still, the viewer must be sensitive to his reaction. Is he revolted by the image or in fact captivated? Surrealist imagery – the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated objects, figures – or perspectives – almost comes as a jolt to the unaware audience. It is provocative in nature, plumbing the depths of the subconscious. Is it the bark or the bite of the work that has instilled the fear in us?
Randy Andem takes a formalist approach to his geometric abstraction. He shares the information that the work was inspired by the art of Louise Nevelson. Of Russian descent, the American sculptor created a long-running series of wall installations that are relief in nature. They are constructed from numerous parts of discarded wood furniture, assembled together in crate-like configurations. Often they are painted in a single monochrome: black, white or gold. Nevelson was also an early exemplar of a feminist who stood her ground against the prejudicies of a male-dominated New York art scene. She refused to be pigeonholed as a woman artist, a derogatory male gesture of diminishing the female gender, intent on questioning male superiority. In a golden rectangle composition, Andem equates the debris of our city to the poverty of our people.
This painting of a mother and child by Christel Pichay is brimming with love and affection. The subjects, after all, are his own wife and daughter. In this work, the artist is observant of the conventions of the Mother and Child theme. The bodies of the two figures seem to have merged into each other, beyond the warm physical embrace. Light and shadow are so seamlessly brushed into each, blurring contours and delineations. In a matriarchal society such as ours, the Mother and Child will always remain a classic theme. More than just an emotionally accessible subject, it has a direct artistic lineage through all centuries and cultures since ancient times.
Art has opened new avenues for self-expression in ways that past centuries never saw as worthy and therefore never been even ventured into. The discovery and the courage to use non-traditional materials – aside from oils and acrylics, watercolor and tempera, for instance – paved the way for an aesthetic sensation never felt before. A movement started in Italy in the Sixties was called Arte Povera, literally meaning Poor Art, where discarded materials, often picked-up in the streets, regarded as trash or rubbish, found their renewed usage as elements of art. Today, without exaggeration, anything and everything has its potential as art material. In this show, Jonathan Castro recycles old and used canvas pieces, sewn together and retouched, strewn with Biblical verses, and enriched with new meanings and emotion, and a new face.
In a previous show, Lex Marcos was inspired by the works of the late Spanish poet Hernandez, from whose poems, questioning authority and exposing its tragic consequences, the artist derived his poignant images, at once figurative and abstract. In his current work, Marcos was inspired by a multi-media production named Machinenoisy. A homage to “childhood innocence,” the theme is richly emotive and offers images suggestive of childhood, to which all humanity can connect. While the work is predominantly abstract, the spontaneity in the manner of composition is itself an illumination of a vanished past, whose consequences – joyous or tragic – are still being felt in the present.