ALLEGORIA I A skeletal first sampler-of-sorts of contemporary Philippine allegorical art and artists for diskurso.comâ€™s
The Art Piece as A Closed Text Series
curated by diskurso.com
March 15 to April 12, 2018 AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea Greenbelt 5, Makati
ÂŠ 2018 diskurso.com
ALLEGORIA I A skeletal first sampler-of-sorts of contemporary Philippine allegorical art and artists for diskurso.com’s The Art Piece as a Closed Text Series curated by diskurso.com
March 15 to April 12, 2018 AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea, Greenbelt 5, Makati
1. THE ART PIECE AS A CLOSED TEXT THERE are too many exhibitions out there that peddle the virtue of being open, that is to say, of being democratic when it comes to the question of the meaning or significance of, or the total semantics around, a work of art or a body of artworks on display. This show, Allegoria I, of what hopes to be the first of a sub-series of shows of allegorical art within a mother series we shall call The Art Piece As a Closed Text, does not have any beef against that aforementioned openness or democracy, especially when such an open show comes accompanied by another intent, say an aesthetic thesis or proposition, otherwise by a convincing rationale for openness, say a spiritual one. Instead, the Allegoria sub-series is only trying to offer another way of selling (and consuming) art in the poststructuralist era, in its case by “closing the text”, or dictating the meaning, in/of each of its exhibited works. To the Italian novelist and critic Umberto Eco, the “open text” (what the French critic Roland Barthes before him called the “writerly” text or texte scriptible) allows for multiple interpretations. Eco posited that there is also the “closed text” (the “readerly” text, or texte lisible to
Barthes), which guides the reader to one interpretation. But we might remember that what Eco ultimately demonstrated in his book The Role of the Reader was that closed texts are not to be feared or ridiculed as, anyway, they are only closed up to a point and often indeed also end up as open for a variety of reasons, one of which reasons is that you can't really control people and their reading of texts. In the age of post-structuralists, the clear message now is this: there is no shame in closing the text, for as long as the author (or the painter) can be democratic about any possible corruption or bastardization by readers of his worksâ€™ good intentions. It is in that light (of accepting the fact that all sincere intent-driven texts within a democracy are both closed and open) that this show rejects head-on the notion that art must therefore not impose its own meanings at all, or that art must only show what it can and not dare interpret itself outside the quiet frame (despite the contradictory presence of titles on gallery walls or sometimes even on sculpted frames), and that the rest or most of it must be left to the reader/viewer or, god forbid, the better eye of critics. First of all, why this phobia? The exhibitors in this show largely conjecture that this now-quitepopular artists-must-not-impose-their-own-meanings critical doctrine may have stemmed from artistsâ€™ fear of losing the sensations, ambiguities or mysteries that attract viewers to a work of theirs and keep these viewers interested for a perpetual period of time. But may it be a fear coming more from art marketing worries, the reason perhaps for the decline of the closed text in the galleries? Although, we must admit, apart from dealers and gallerists we can hear many artists in the present who do articulate the same phobias. Or is it a fear brought out by the post-structuralist trend whence people were led to misread post-structuralism as an encouragement to artists to open their texts/paintings more and to avoid closing the interpretation on these?
2. CLOSING THE TEXT THROUGH THE ALLEGORY THIS show, Allegoria I, points back to various periods of time when artists did not have such fears concerning closing their “texts”, periods where there was no display of fear about losing “the inscrutable” in their works, periods where the allegory was proudly practiced. This non-fear occurred because the audience’s regard for the references/referents in the allegories of the artists of those periods were still quite strong, unlike today when cynicism towards religious or political or intellectual positions abounds, or unlike today where a low regard for artist-craftsmen’s grasp of religious or political or intellectual positions seems common. But the allegory did not exactly vanish in the visual arts, even with the advent of the Modernist period. Some opine that Marcel Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by His Bachelors, Even” was an allegory, albeit vaguely or half-heartedly so. And in the present, you have such outstanding artist-concocted allegories (as against criticderiving, or critic-read, ones) as Graydon Parrish’s “The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy”, Parrish’s allegory of the psyche behind the September 11 attacks. The majority of the artists in Allegoria I would theorize that many artists’ phobia for closed texts comes from a fear of being attacked as failures in their intentions, as when they fail to show what they claim to have shown. Or, again, from a fear of being attacked as having reduced their works into emblems, like flags containing color and shape symbols. The artists in this show would contend and prove once again that pushing for artist-prescribed meanings diminishes neither an artwork’s sentiment nor its recurrent vagueness or mystery, for two reasons: 1) the visual artwork remains visual, retaining its own range of emotions and ambiguities (cf., reading a movie’s plot and synopsis on Wikipedia does not diminish one’s later or permanent enjoyment of that movie’s cinematography, dramaturgical presentation, visual motion of shot objects, music, film editing, sound mixing, visual effects, actors’ acting, art direction, among other visual and aural
elements of cinema); and 2) intellectual topics that are wont to be subjects of allegories have their own variety and depth of sensations and inscrutabilities (e.g. the rich emotions around, say, social justice or feminism as political concerns or movements that may be alluded to by allegories, or the visceral vagueness—even to psychologists— of human behaviors or psychological experiences often referenced by allegories). In short, the artists in this show would be defying all the artist fears mentioned above. In turn and in effect, they would mock the artist who, with abhorrent total dependence, submits his art’s meaning/s wholly to the supposedly “better eye of critics”, to the point that what he might later say about his art and what his exhibitors would say about the same would embarrassingly conflict! But, wait. Lest you also read that this show is showing the sole artists in the country unafraid of the allegory, hold your horses. This here is just a sampler album of sorts. And this promises of other volumes to come, involving similarly assured artists out there with the courage to use the allegory, or any other text-closing device for that matter. A thing to look forward to, then. Allegoria II? Sure! Finally, just because this references a past doesn’t mean it doesn’t contemporize the allegorizing act. We’ll get to that when we get to our discussion of the participating artists’ respective works below.
3. OTHER CLOSED TEXT SHOWS ON THE HORIZON ALSO looming on the horizon for the The Art Piece As a Closed Text series: Historia (history art); Religioso (religious art); Art vs. Politics (political art qua search for truth, etc.); Illustratio (art illustrating literary texts); Appropriationem (appropriation art); and so on. . . . Hang on in there, then.
4. THE ALLEGORIA, VOLUME ONE PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: MARCEL ANTONIO, a well-established Filipino painter who needs no introduction, has long been viewed as a narrative painter who gets inspiration from literary sources, and then recently also as an antinarrative artist in much the same way the Symbolists were known as symbol-users who were likewise deniers of the symbol’s sufficiency. The prolific Antonio has used the word “allegory” in some of his works, and it may be argued that all of his pieces were actually secret (or “open”) allegories. He joins this show to be out with the statement that he can be so closed within his usual openness, or can be thus closed after a career of semantic impartiality. RAUL DEODATO ARELLANO is an East Hemet, California-based Filipino-American painter and award-winning actor (Raymond Red’s Himpapawid) who, in some of his paintings, offers a link between oldfashioned allegorical imagery and openness. Born in 1965 in Cagayan de Oro City, Arellano has a background exposed to so much allegory: he was a scholar at The Actors Workshop in 1987; a filmmaking student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995; and a painting and art history major at the El Camino College in Torrance, California from 2002. He moved to the United States in 1995. LEC CRUZ is the youngest painter in this show. A bassist for the band Giniling Festival, he majored in Philosophy and then in Painting at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. He started exhibiting in 2010 and has had four solo exhibitions since 2015, notably including the political allegories The Sun Sets in the West (2016, West Gallery) and Troglodytes in Cashmere (2017, Underground Gallery), the latter referencing Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and how it relates to contemporary times. He has also been active as an art writer, working with artists and galleries here and abroad.
SIMKIN DE PIO, another young painter who has made the rounds of galleries with a number of group shows and one solo show, has been diskurso.com art magazineâ€™s managing editor during its launching phase. As a student at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts in the 1990s he was a winner in several art competitions, and, in 2014, was chosen as a delegate to the Langkawi Art Biennale. After having shown works consistently allusive in their avoidance of excessive expressionism or surrealism, he was chosen as one of a number of painters tasked to paint one large history painting each for the permanent exhibition of Philippine history paintings (the Siningsaysay exhibit) at the Gateway Gallery. De Pio situates many of his works around ideas about language, history, and the human condition, and has consistently flaunted his respect for both figuration and abstraction as producers of signs. After his return to painting in 1996 through a group show, followed by a hefty number of more group shows, internationally-awarded and Singapore-based Filipino cartoonist DENGCOY MIEL debuted as a solo-showing painter in 2016 with an exhibition of visual puns not far from his political cartoons. But while a cartoon of his may be the equivalent of an exquisite problem play, his paintings exhibited at Kaida Gallery in Quezon City in 2016, and then early last year in his second solo show, were strong black comedies about long-standing cultural realities. Miel is divine proof of the possibility of artistry not loathe to direct meaning as clearly as a social/cultural critic or erudite parodist would. He joins this show of allegories to extend his commentary on a global subject, presenting signature visual puns as signifiers of mental truths hiding beneath root images. JASON MOSS, born in Metro Manila in 1976, is a painter, sculptor, installation artist, and veteran of the literary-visual art of illustration. Moss already had a first solo show in 1993 at the age of seventeen but chose to take up a Fine Arts Advertising degree at the University of Santo Tomas, graduating in 1997. Having had no formal training in painting, he taught himself the techniques and lexicon of the art and has since then been prolifically exhibiting both in and outside the
Philippines. Moss’ subjects deal with various themes in contemporary art, often allegorizing the human condition. ANTHONY PALOMO graduated from the studio arts department of the UP College of Fine Arts in 1992 and was a member of that school’s Antipolo-based Salingpusa art collective of struggling young painters with a social realist bent. He represented the Philippines at the 1997 Perak Art Festival in West Malaysia and became part of the 2004 Philippine Independence Day celebration travelling exhibition in West Germany. He has had numerous one-man shows and participated in a number of group shows in the country as well as in the United States and Singapore. ALWIN REAMILLO is a stalwart flaunter of metaphors and has managed—all through the years of his art practice here and abroad— the allegorical device quite well. Constantly aware of the context not only of his works and the tiniest details of these but also of the space of his works’ locus as well as of the materials that build them, he has also ventured into social sculpture. His 2016 installation at Tin-aw Gallery, involving hedgehogs in their privileged cages as illustrative of similarities to life in gated communities, stands out to us as a masterful handling of the allegorical device. Like Reamillo and brother Raymond, JON RED studied painting and visual arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts and then at the University of the Philippines. While no stranger to the allegory, especially the narrative type, having attended a film workshop at the Mowelfund Film Institute after which he directed independent films and TV shows including Es, a 1988 video which won the Best Jury Prize at the Mondiale de la Video in Brussels, Belgium, he doesn’t regard himself as an allegorist but more as an expressionist. His other short works, likewise possessing some resulting allegorical heaviness, include Tiempo and Trip, both produced by Mowelfund and both Best Short Film awardees at the Gawad Urian in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Still Lives, a pioneering digital film screened as an Official Selection at the 2000 Singapore International Film Festival, and ASTIGmatism, which won the Silver DV Award at the 28th Hongkong International Film Festival in 2004, are some of his notable
longer works. He has exhibited paintings and videos in various group shows and is one of the 25 recipients of the first Indie Bravo (presented in 2010), a Philippine Daily Inquirer tribute to independent filmmakers. He joins this show with three paintings and a video film. Jon Red’s brother, RAYMOND RED, is one of the pioneers of modern Filipino independent and alternative cinema that emerged in the 1980s. He probably first became a national celebrity in the filmmaking world in 2000, when he won the 2000 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or in the short film category for his film Anino (Shadows), essentially an allegory of many things social, political, and aesthetic. The distinction makes it the first and, so far, only Cannes Palme D’Or awarded to a Filipino filmmaker. He is also the first Filipino invited to the prestigious Berlin Artists-in-Residence program and one of the first Filipinos awarded a Hubert Bals grant at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Red has also been awarded the Pag-Alab ng Sining Award by the UP College of Fine Arts. His works have been exhibited in international film festivals including the New York International Film Festival, the Festival Internationale du Film de Cannes, and the Berlin Film Festival, as well as in institutions by the likes of the MOMA, the Directors’ Guild of America, the Chicago Art Institute, the Frankfurt Film Museum, and ICA London. His most recent features, Himpapawid (Manila Skies, starring Raul Arellano) and Kamera Obskura, the latter of which two films also functions as an allegory of filmmaking, continue to be screened in festivals and cinematheques. Having studied at the Philippine High School for the Arts, the UP College of Fine Arts, and the University of the Philippines Film Center, Red has also dabbled every now and then in painting and photography. He joins this show with his brand of psychological allegory-making through the elements of the still photograph and the bricolage. JOJO SORIA DE VEYRA, signing as VEYRA, is diskurso.com art magazine’s editor and permanent critic. A UP College of Fine Arts dropout who was classmates with Elmer Borlongan and Joy Mallari, he left painting to venture—through and after training at the Silliman University Creative Writing Center and the UP Creative Writing
Center—into poetry and fiction. He worked in the advertising and publishing industries at various times and later made a bit of a name for himself as a cultural, social, political, and art criticism blogger working on the fringes. He makes his late-blooming debut appearance as a painter in this show at the encouragement of college buddy Marcel Antonio and some others, building his own brand of contemporary allegorical painting composition in this, his late and ostensibly permanent return. (He is also currently a participant in a concurrent group show in another Manila gallery). IAN VICTORIANO was schoolmates with the Reds and Reamillo at the Philippine High School for the Arts and then the UP College of Fine Arts. However, he shortly shifted his gaze towards journalism and wrote for the Philippine Collegian while he studied at the UP College of Mass Communications in the mid-‘80s. A short story writer writing in Filipino, he is perhaps better known as Raymond Red’s constant co-screenwriter, the writer of the 2016 TV series Katipunan, a writer for children’s television, and as a co-writer of Mikhail Red’s multi-award-winning feature film Rekorder. After participating in six group shows and two two-man shows, he launched a career as a solo-showing painter at the Kulay-Diwa Gallery of Contemporary Art in Parañaque in 2003, displaying there a collection of expressionist works allegorizing the positive facet of mythmaking—one good reason for him to belong in this first sampler album of a show of Filipino contemporary visual allegorists.
5. THE WORKS IN ALLEGORIA, VOLUME ONE:
Raymond Red, Balatkayo I, 2018, film still on photo canvas + objects, 21 x 17 inches including box.
Moving from left to right at our show at the gallery, we would be greeted by a couple of intimate bricolage art pieces by RAYMOND RED at the left side of the entrance, the first one of which, titled Balatkayo I (Camouflage I), involves a 2003 film still on photo canvas. Featuring a shot of actor John Arcilla as a Makapili member surrounded by Batmobile toys, Red’s piece allegorizes the Makapili’s view of themselves as heroes for land reform, or as heroes for the virtues of collaboration. Exaggerated here as a superhero, this Batman of sorts, whom an army of other would-be Batmen are moved to follow in the name of a green or blue utopia of peace, becomes himself—along with his army—an allegory of following, that kind of samurai-like following blinded by post-war lands of promise, either as farmers or as members of an Asian lumpenbourgeoisie. Allusive of never-ending loyalism to local and foreign dictator-liars who may themselves be blinded by their own lie of a utopia or green greed, inversely it also infers the American Batman’s own blindness acquired from his own utopia, his type of democracy. The blindness referred to here is not physical blindness; it is one that builds up from a narrow view of the world, a confirmation bias perhaps, brought by a hiding self’s mask of selfish or self-delusional secrets, almost devoid of peripheral visions of sympathy, armed perhaps by binoculars that only lengthens a narrow-mindedness. This is typical of Red’s kind of history-culled and nostalgia symbols rich in dynamic meaning (see the 1960s made-in-USA Batmobile toy at the center here and smaller, more recent made-in-China Batmobiles) that result in complex brews of allegories beyond mere anti-Americanism. This kind of allegorization is a Red trademark, of course. In Red’s complex allegory of filmmaking, Kamera Obskura, he also creates from images or objects of history a very contemporary allegory that ultimately makes a statement about the history of human civilizations itself and these civilizations’ political and apolitical choices.
Raymond Red, Balatkayo II, 2018, film still on photo canvas + objects, 25 x 19 inches including box.
Redâ€™s second piece here, Balatkayo II (Camouflage II), includes in its mix of images a still of a 1989 film-shoot study, here set to photo canvas, and a foregrounding set of 1960s toys.
Still playing with the image of the Makapili, the references here are different. Red places a samurai sword and a sitting G.I. Joe toy without hands, its head covered by a burlap sack. That implies a beheading, which then alludes to contemporary beheadings. It’s interesting to note the context that the prisoner blinded by the sack may be no more blinded than the men hiding behind their masks. This allegory becomes more complex when we move our focus to the central G.I. Joe whose new head (cast by Red from another toy’s head and painted) may actually be representative of all sorts of neocolonialism. Notice that this central G.I. Joe is holding his own white or yellow face mold. And notice, too, that this G.I. Joe seems to have a darker complexion than the one sitting. Incidentally, a ruler standing at the left of the box allows us to remember the fact that this is a genuine G.I. Joe toy, 12 inches high, an elite class indeed over its replica G.I. Joes in smaller sizes that were produced later. Those replicas are not represented here, except by the ruler’s reminder of their existence. Instead, what are represented here are World War II Japanese soldiers not even six inches high. Does that difference in height refer to American G.I. Joes’ view of Asian-ness that may have created its own blinders? Additionally, we must emphasize that these two Red bricolage pieces are not made up of found objects but of pieces from Red’s collection of vintage toys and curio items. That is significant, if only to underscore the fact that certain acts are allegorical in themselves qua attitudes. It is safe to note that Red’s attitude towards the imagery represented in these pieces is the same attitude with which he approaches the pieces of memorabilia or nostalgia he has acquired through the years: the attitude of a historian with a take on history.
Lec Cruz, Wait Time, 2018, oil on canvas, 40 x 48 inches.
LEC CRUZ’s oil titled Wait Time, meanwhile, contributes its own history-culled imagery and style for the presentation of an allegory of regret. Painted in the magazine-illustration style of the 1940s and ‘50s, it actually writes a fictionalized depiction of a true story of five U.S. Air Force men who volunteered in 1957 to stand beneath an exploding 2kiloton nuclear missile to prove the relative safety of a low-grade nuclear missile exchange in the atmosphere. That story can be read here. And while that story has implied that two of those five died in their 80s, one at age 71, one at age 63, with one possibly still alive as of 2012, all or some of whom may have developed cancer in later years due to or abetted by the testing’s fallout, science historian Alex Wellerstein argues that “. . . lots of people associated with Nevada Test Site operations got cancer over the years, some $150 million has been paid out in compensation to
2,000+ "onsite participants" of nuclear testing, under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. “The thing is, in that particular explosion, those guys would have been in a pretty safe position. The bomb itself was a small one (by nuclear standards — 2 kilotons) and it was way, way above their heads. They weren't in a zone to be too affected by the immediate radiation. The bomb was small enough and high enough that it wouldn't have sucked up dust to produce much fallout. The remaining cloud would have been full of (nasty) fission products, but it would have been extremely hot and most of it would have stayed aloft until it cooled down, by which point it probably would have been spread more diffusely.” The writer of the story published on the NPR site wrote: “At least the folks in the films volunteered to be there (George [the cameraman] excepted) and were given some pre-film training (not terribly useful, but still). That was not the case for a little community downwind from the Nevada Test Site, a place called St. George, Utah.” The cameraman himself talked about fellow cameramen who took pictures of atomic bombs, “quite a few [of whom] died from cancer, . . . [no doubt] related to the testing.“ . . . Cruz’s painting, however, is more than just a 1950s-ish fictionalized dramatization of a not-so-immediate aftermath. As its title suggests, it is an allegory of human choices that may or may not lead to regret. And it is not just ordinary choices that lead to ordinary consequences that it is talking about here, it is imputing quite big ones. Moreover, it allegorizes the involvement of time in all of this, the time between the implementation of a choice and the realization of that choice’s consequences.
Dengcoy Miel, Allegory of War, 2018, oil on linen, 48 x 60 inches.
Still on political choices, there’s the readily and overtly political or social bent of DENGCOY MIEL’s multi-awarded masterful visual commentary that we placed on AltroMondo’s “star wall”. In this show, Miel offers a 2018 Allegory of War, providing symbols that comment on: 1) the reduction of justice into a statistic of casualties, 2) hubris [see the general’s still enthusiastic though nowincompetent sword arms still optimistic about his forward-march command over a landscape of thorns], 3) the reduction of soldiers’ numbers into the level of horses’ or tanks’ numbers [see image of soldier forced to stand in for a horse’s mobility], 4) pawns’ sacrifice euphemized as their “heroism” or “martyrdom” for a flag (or false flag), and 5) the true victor in war being always King Death. Now, if all flags are in themselves allegories gathering symbolic details that signify patriotism, is Miel’s global allegory of war his counter-allegory allegorizing the myth of flags’ own allegories? If so, then this ought to be the ultimate anti-war (even anti-Drug War)
attack, pointing as it seems at the real enemy: the myth of â€œnationsâ€? that often hides an overarching reality, a reality of self-interested, power-hungry kings using obedient, unquestioning pawns.
Jason Moss, Kahon ng Maynika, 2018, oil on canvas, 60 x 42 inches.
Still on political themes, the celebrated JASON MOSS contributes to this show an allegory of “the role of the gay man in society” with a 5 x 4 ft. upright oil on canvas. Titled Kahon ng Maynika (Doll Box), Moss’ exploration in this work of the canvas space as tract for a rococo-like filling up is already an allegory of cramped places where many a gay man, urban or otherwise, would find himself situated in, crampednesses like those in the startup, neighborhood beauty parlor of many a struggling haircutter. Aside from expressing the emotional tone of being boxed in, the work’s painterly visual proposition asks whether a rococo taste for decoration is already part of many gay men’s identity or gender, as well as part of a kind of performativity to “make up” the self or “hide” one’s identity and assume the desired form. Moss then extends that abovementioned rococo crampedness with the incorporation of tropes of grottoesque to explore the psychology of gay doubleness in that gender’s world of mental polarity, hybridity, and desired or consequent metamorphoses. As regards polarity and hybridity, in the painting the main figure in the foreground is a client in a beauty parlor who has a wrong reflection in the mirror. It is a wrongness repeated in the other figures’ respective reflections, all presumably to celebrate and/or lament the other or reflected personalities’ quasi-presences within the polarity. (The mirror is used here as a symbol of another universe, almost as a dream/fantasy utopia of either a far or within-reach planet of existence). But as a disclaimer to the mirror’s bright hopes of liberation or accomplishment, Moss also dramatizes through the aesthetic of the painting’s coloration and treatment the issue of ugliness, again citing the grottoesque, to raise the question concerning the ugly as a reflection of reality. This approach pits him against what could be shallow perceptions of the fine arts (or gay men’s art, for that matter) as a production mill for creations of beauty. Therefore, in this act, Moss allegorizes his own type of gay realist poetics, set in opposition to other gay personas’ aesthetics of glossy magazine idealizations (the contemporary version of classicism, here represented by the right side quasi-presences of a gay utopia).
The issue of identity through this gay utopia that Moss’ realism is pitted against is also further dramatized by the mental act of making up the self with make-up, as depicted by the central repressed subject’s mirror image. It would seem that Moss is not totally against that. After all, there have been points in history and geography where the gay self was treated as a revolutionary idea, culminating in a point where the gay persona could curate himself in/for the present. The internet has played a big role in liberating this narcissist virtue from judgment, stringing all ideas available in the world. Some of those images of struggle are in fact stringed together in this piece, to show tension between the self and society or the struggle for acceptance. And it is in that “showing” that Moss would declare his realism as a necessary presence beside all that gay utopia.
Simkin de Pio, Turbid, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches.
As if to echo and then reverse Moss’s realist attitude towards beauty ideals, drawing young master SIMKIN DE PIO chose to contribute to our show a New York School type of painting that handles the allegory at the abstract level. Titled Turbid, de Pio’s work spreads the symbol-rich yellow color on his square plane to propose its emblematic value as the color of the Sun, of the Pope, and of amusement, gentleness, beauty, and—to the Chinese—of happiness, glory, harmony, and wisdom or correctness. De Pio’s yellow solid surface, however, becomes but a primer for a wet murkiness (or turbidity) of coal-black, gunmetal, and blood red melts poured down on the firm yellow surface to allegorize the gravity
of red’s associations with the ideas of sacrifice, danger, as well as courage. The contrast/conflict between the solid and liquified images would then result in heat, anger, and destruction, even sunset. De Pio’s title may point to the coloration of the dripping area of the painting as it informs on what looks like an erstwhile yellow joyousness, but we all know that it may as well refer to goings-on in the contemporary political as well as religious spheres. Despite the work’s elegiac tone, however, de Pio’s abstract allegory offers a glimpse of a distant blue horizon, as if to promise a spot of renewal filled with harmony, faithfulness, and calmness.
Ian Victoriano, Blind Man’s Mirror, 2018, oil, acrylic, oil pastel, charcoal, and modeling paste on canvas, 60 x 48 inches.
Still on the issue of abstraction qua allegory, IAN VICTORIANO comes to this group show with an open approach to the allegorical device, but with a Duchampian complexity. In Blind Man’s Mirror, this child of ‘80s painting would put Rorschachian values of recognition or association on the table, in the manner of Ed Paschke and the neo-expressionists.
In this particular work’s case, Victoriano—as the producer of the painting’s images—would propose the recognition of an imposing hard cliff in the background. In the center foreground could be a vulnerable sitting man who could himself be sitting on the edge of another cliff, looking at the cliff on the other side, or sitting there but looking back at us, or, otherwise, with his entire body facing the viewer of the painting, sitting wrapped in a blanket like a Kalinga man. This foregrounding image could also be broken down further into being the contoured drawing of a long shadow (or the concept of “shadow”) of what could be a contoured drawing of a rock (or the concept of “rock”), or the contoured drawing of a reflection of this rock in a body of water. This body of water’s ripples could be seen inside this rock’s reflection but could also be read as the ripples reflected on the man’s clothing or blanket, if that lower round thing is not a rock’s reflection but the upper torso of a man. Other markings then invite other associations, other recognitions. We might remember Victoriano’s first one-man show at Kulay-Diwa in 2003, where he engaged the viewer in issues of myths and mythmaking and in the positive and negative aspects of the myth qua concept. In this show, Victoriano posits an examination of how we allegorize. His piece asks if abstract art, or realism for that matter, isn’t an allegory in itself, since it (as well as realism) can actually already be an allegory of man’s vision (physical and consequent mental/psychological vision), further mental vision (conjectures, suspicions, investigations, analyses), and ability to “understand” reality (and the many versions of reality). What Victoriano intends to dramatize here is the fact that the viewer of this abstract work, or of another abstract work, or a nonabstract work for that matter, would always virtually approach the work of art blind. The reality that the art-piece viewer would intend to grasp according to his physical vision (whether it’s a vision made easy by the mimicry of verisimilitude or made hard by the abstraction of a mimicked haziness, darkness, or vagueness) is always going to be his mirror: how he sees things is how, and ultimately what, he is going to be.
You could say that this work is almost the positive representation of the much-maligned artist’s position that says “what you’d see in the painting is what is going to make it of any value to you.” Victoriano seems to have appropriated that approach and made a thesis out of its more serious and definitely non-ridiculous possibility. Let us prove this seriousness: Notice, for instance, that the foregrounding “man” or “rock” in the painting is drawn to communicate the concept “transparent instead of solid”. And notice that instead of rendering this concept with the use of transparent paint (or paint made transparent) Victoriano only chose to mimic (almost parody) transparency. Is Victoriano pitting the issue or evidence of transparency against the issue or evidence of opacity (here represented by the overwhelming ochres and the opacityclaiming impastoed paint)? Is he pitting illusion against empiricism? It is in all this sense of pitting your reality against someone else’s as confronted by the picture that Blind Man’s Mirror becomes an allegory of human existence itself, or, in a smaller world, of art viewing itself, replete with all of mankind’s attendant prejudice and myopia as well as openness and receptivity. It is also as if Victoriano has offered the show its halftime test piece: an allegory of allegory-offering and allegory-accepting, testing like a psychologist or philosopher who can and cannot be here. If this has been our realization in front of the painting, then that transparent rock or man is Victoriano himself, there receptively sitting on his painterly throne.
Ian Victoriano, AM-PM (diptych), 2018, oil, acrylic, oil pastel, charcoal, and modeling paste on canvas, each panel 72 x 24 inches.
AM-PM seems to have the same ambitious direction as Blind Man’s Mirror, but this time navigating the world of fantasy. First, in offering a relationship-cum-contrast between waking up to the day and going off to prepare for or meet or submit to the evening, which can be approached from the merely scientific attitude, AM-PM examines whether an abstraction of imageries could also transform that usual depiction or appreciation of those concepts (ante merediem, post meridiem). Let us see. In the left panel, a girl seems to be sleeping atop a tree with berries or apples in fruition. Is the girl finding it hard to wake up? If so, why? Could she also be “in fruition”? Is she too young or of legal age? And if that is indeed a tree or bush tree canopy she is supposed to be fantastically on top of, is the trunk of it (which looks to be severed from the tree) really its trunk? If not, what is it? Is it a mushroom cloud? Is it a penis head penetrating her domain of fruition? Is it a burned trunk the smoke from which is lifting her treetop? Then notice that in the next panel the girl seems to be awake, ready to clamber down the tree, but shaped as a snake, albeit still in Philip Guston-esque girlish pink, and with the face of a monkey, albeit seeming to be wearing glasses. And it would seem that the mushroom or penis or flower or smoke at the bottom of the tree that was quite awake in the AM is now the one in withdrawal. This definitely looks like Victoriano’s joke on the concept of AM wakefulness and PM tiredness, as well as on the concept of what’s pretty in pink during the day that could be quite a snake at night, or what could seem young and pretty when asleep that could be old and ugly when awake. A painting about prostitution? Or is it about the blur of reality itself not exclusive to people in the night shift but accessing as well those in the day shift—for instance, you, the sober viewer of this painting? “Alegorya din ito ng personal na pagtingin ko sa paghahanap o pagtuklas ng katotohanan: kung kailan ka gising, tulog naman o kaya ay di ka pinapansin ng katotohanan; kung kailan ito naman ang gising, ikaw naman ang tulog,” adds Victoriano. So, Victoriano is allegorizing illusion, framed this time within the
ideas of earlier and later, of morning and evening, of being within the light and being within the dark. And, given that he dramatizes all this vertically, is he also allegorizing the myth of hierarchies of reality, given that those who claim to be awake within the light and empirically humble within the dark may in fact be no more than victims of the same illusions of existence that everyone experiences like a jetlag in whatever moment in time, including the illusion of a humble empiricism? This is an apt closing piece for the halftime of our catalog, if only because the allegory is quite like that: like Victorianoâ€™s piece, it tries to present a material object that allegorizes, but never independent of what it allegorizes. And this is so because the allegorical art piece is humble enough to note that it is but a conversation piece for a bigger subject, an instigator of sorts, a witness to an event, beyond which there must be a furtherance of investigations by the conversationalists, even if it includes itself among those up for investigation, and albeit the reality of what was referenced by the allegorizing object may in fact end up as itself replete with illusions. After all, an allegory is a bunch of ideas upon (an) idea/s. Unlike art focusing on materiality, or verisimilitude, insisting on their solidity or veracity, the allegory remains afloat, with mere observations delivered to instigate questions and solutions, in the end to encourage democracy and Karl Popperian openness as a product of its closed textsâ€™ healthy aggressions.
Jon Red, Alakoholic, 2015, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 30 x 30 inches.
To the other half of our dozen, then. Now there’s JON RED, who would tell you that it is not in his language to be allegorical. We, however, invited him to this show for the heavy allegorical values diskurso.com found in some of his angsty-looking works, allegorical readings touching on present-day aesthetic and social concerns that Red approved of and agreed to, which approval makes those readings his as well. An accomplice, then. So: In Alakoholic, Red displays on the canvas the counterpoint text “Alakangkausap” (You have no one to talk to), as if to contextualize the “alako” (I have no) in the title. So, the walang kausap becomes
both the I in the title and the You on the canvas text. There also happens on it two readings—one reading having one person in the narrative drinking (you/ka and I/ko read as one and the same person) and another having two persons drinking. This latter two-person reading would presumably place the personas in two different locations, with both characters alone in their lonesome, separated, both with no one to talk to, or unable to talk to each other—both with only the bottle to talk to (“alak ang kausap”—talking to the wine bottle). At this level, the painting is already an allegory of various modes of isolation, as well as various modes of contextualizing text. Now,. . . notice, too, that the painting seems to have unwittingly associated alcoholic drunkenness with abstract painting (see the abstract brushstrokes foregrounded by a rough drawing of a glass and bottle). It is here that the painting adds a dimension to the abstract genre, a dimension removed from the spiritual common among abstractions! Well, unless we are to say drunkenness and spirituality are really one. Therefore, to us, Alakoholic is not a mere depiction of drunken visuals, nor a mere elegy on aloneness and separation. It becomes, likewise, an allegory of the triangle that exists between forgetting, remembering, and the alcoholic substances that ostensibly make one forget as well as remember. And doesn’t that make an alcoholic substance (or cannabis-like drug), too, out of abstract images (abstraction as an alcoholic bottle of paint one mentally drinks alone)? And if abstract imagery is there to make us forget the “real world” for a better world, doesn’t it stand to frustrate itself with the emergent fact that abstract forms also make us remember?
Jon Red, Ulan (detail), 2016, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 48 x 36 inches.
Meanwhile, in Ulan, Red presents us imagery that could simply refer to rain pouring down hard, painful as nails, on a Baconian figure receiving the pain. Or as an expressionist blues song to the pangs of our present crucified economic and political state. But could it be that the painting also finds itself alluding to the jargon “pinaulanan” (rained on)? But that use of the Tagalog word is popularly invoked to refer to bullets or arrows, and here what we have are merely nails, with the figure—on closer inspection—appearing as one very much resembling a person crucified. Should this painting be read as a picture of the Christ crucified, then? Well, if that is Jesus Christ indeed and is “pinauulanan” (being
made to be rained on) by more nails, then our allegory is complete. This finally becomes not a painting of an action movie scene but, ultimately, a (perhaps accidental) commentary on the eternal commodification of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, a take on the never-ending exploitation of a savior’s daily torture in order to sell the concept of salvation. But later we would notice that we ourselves are “pinauulanan” by that same salvation concept or arrangement, a concept-cum-arrangement that almost frees us of any liability when we sin big (if we can bring ourselves to ask for forgiveness at the rate of an indulgence) and almost makes it easy for us to forgive (when we are confronted by cries of “mercy” from the most odious of nailgivers). A fitting painting, indeed, for this Lenten season, along with de Pio’s political-cum-religious Turbid.
Jon Red, Business with Pleasure, 2008, acrylic on board, 48 x 36 inches.
Finally, in Business with Pleasure, we are confronted with a comiclike rendition of a man in business attire with a rose-offering head. But is the literal reading of that drawing really what the paintingâ€™s title results in alluding to? We would rather you go further and treat the drawing and the abstract remainder of the painting as allegorical
referrers. For one may consider the fact that the “serious” business of drawing is also a pleasurable sort of business when you bring values to it that could be associated with pleasure, e.g. the “comic” rendition. And isn’t the painting commodity itself culturally identified as serious business not at the same level as comics? So, what if we apply lower comics into higher painting? Moreover, abstract swipes and dabs and dribbles of paint are pleasurable to some, for either being seriously fun or otherwise funny, while to others serious as hell, to be associated with psychological phenomena and even religious or spiritual approaches to images. And what if you could combine both fun and serious attitudes—to create an allegory of attitudes to images—in the same way that the practice or application of abstraction can both be studied/planned and spontaneous?
Veyra, A Gingerbread Man’s/Woman’s World triptych, 2012-18, acrylic on canvas, all laterally measuring 48 x 31 ½ inches.
Five paintings of various sizes from JOJO SORIA DE VEYRA, who signs his works as VEYRA, actually explores the very same potentials of fun and seriousness in pieces that reek of black comedy. Veyra presents a mode of contemporaneity or experiment that could be deemed as having that rigidly-closed-in-the-old-fashioned-way allegorical process, but as applied to contemporary referents through Pop imagery. Let’s see how this works. First there are the three standing acrylic paintings on shaped canvas belonging to a triptych Veyra titled A Gingerbread Man’s/Woman’s World. Beyond first glance, this triptych of gingerbread-, or voodoo doll-, or jigsaw-puzzle pieces-shaped canvases would claim to treat of feminist or lipstick-feminist issues and problems concerning kinky sex and sexual fetishism. (Which is a relief, by the way, given that diskurso.com couldn’t find a woman artist to include in this first salvo of the Allegoria series, and it is Women’s Month crying for feminist representation! Perhaps in Allegoria II?) To the artist, the gingerbread human shape of the canvases adopted for the feminist themes here signifies the series’ being a food for thought, asking, “how brittle (vulnerable) and/or palatable (acceptable) is the current humanitas behind sex, desire, and gender roles reflected in existing social cultures, including religious culture? How connected are accepted sexual attitudes to all social/cultural/political behavior?” After all, we have been swallowing a lot of these accepted sexual/sexist attitudes without seeming to have had the real resolve to break them. If seen as jigsaw-puzzle shapes, meanwhile, then the context becomes: can the sexist or alternative feminist attitudes depicted or proposed in the paintings have their place in society?
Veyra, The Bitch (or, Allegory of a Slur + A Black Man), 2012-18, acrylic on canvas, laterally 48 x 31 Â˝ inches.
The central piece of the triptych, titled The Bitch (or, Allegory of a Slur + A Black Man), is supposedly a view-from-the-behind portrait of
a “bitch”. It is supposed to address issues around the “bitch” slur so common today in Philippine and American politics and culture at the topmost level. It shows a kneeling female figure with its back to the viewer. While it is a figure inspired by a Kool cigarettes print advertisement, appropriating the pose and color of that ad’s central figure, unlike in the ad the female figure here faces another figure—what is referred to by the painting title as the “black man”. The black man is sitting spread-eagled behind the female figure, and his naked arms are raised. As per the title, the painting is an allegory of a slur, obviously the slur “bitch” hinted by the presence of a white dog figure in the middle of the canvas as well as by the female figure’s holding to her cheek what looks like a vibrator. The female figure holds the vibrator like a cellphone or a beloved object. Here’s how complex this blue joke of an allegory behind this blue composition is: For one, consider the fact that the vibrator is often regarded as a symbol of female “horniness”, of phallic monism, or of submission (by “bitches”) to the superiority of the phallus. And so this painting may be seen simply as a sexist erotica piece portraying a “bitch’s bitchiness”, supported too by other offered images or presences in the painting— the images of vegetation, as a representation of life to underscore supposedly pre-assigned gender roles for the propagation of life, and of a vague jet aircraft’s “cumming”, if you will, out of a raincloud it has penetrated, naughtily hinting at sex and, perhaps also, coitus interruptus (that form of birth control that is almost insensitive to the risk of pregnancy) or “the creampie” (another manifestation of male narcissism). So, at first glance, the overall narrative of the painting seems to demean woman as a mere receiver of phallic ideals—the phallic vibrator, the black man qua symbol of “the man with the big dick”, and that speech balloon that looks like an egg (egg is a popular symbol of the testicle). However, if we look at this composition again, this time from a feminist or lipstick feminist point of view, all could suddenly be reversed.
The egg is, after all, female, not male. And, despite appearing as a kneeling figure preparing herself for a fellatio service, the woman figure (wearing feminist denim jeans and a third-wave feminist tube top) could now in fact be the one on top of things (woman on top, figuratively speaking), as the vibrator, while a phallic tool, is also a feminist symbol of man’s inadequacy and of woman’s independence (note that the vibrator is a common tool in lesbian pornography). And why is this woman who’s supposedly in the process of initiating fellatio holding a vibrator? Is the vibrator really for her, or is it for him? If the plan in this painting’s suggested narrative is to have the black man “pegged” (see pegging, the sexual practice), could his raised arms (usually an expression of freedom and triumph) actually in this case be tied to two trees? Who, finally, is the “bitch” in the painting? Is it her, or is it him? If him, is he being a “bitch” (a hip-hop slang word for a weak black American man) by choice, as in consensual BDSM activity wherein she could be the dominatrix and he the subject of sexual objectification through sissification? And could she also be kneeling to him, as to a Goya-painted Christ Crucified, for a sort of religious and irreligious fetish (see convent pornography), wherein he as object of worship becomes both worshipped male god and slave? Externally, it must be noted that the “bitch” slur, while traditionally despised by activists in first- and second-wave feminism, may actually be viewed by lipstick feminism as 1) a slur invented by convention to acknowledge the power in insulting the mother in a matriarchal society, in turn to acknowledge the lameness of demeaning the father whose effect in the life of a person in that matriarchal society may be less than that of the mother’s effect, and 2) as man’s linguistic insecurity device acknowledging his fear of woman’s potential to cheat in a relationship when the woman is in rebellion against man’s long-self-prescribed privilege (or prerogative) to do the cheating.
Veyra, The Fetishist (or, Allegory of Our Collective Sadness/Badness), 2012-18, acrylic on canvas, laterally 48 x 31 Â˝ inches.
Second in this feminist series/triptych is a panel titled The Fetishist (or, Allegory of Our Collective Sadness/Badness), a Picassoesque left-of-the-viewer piece appearing as a full-length portrait of a
fetishist. But instead of referring to a specific sort of fetishist, on closer inspection the figure looks more like a composite depicting several representations of sexual fetish including clothing fetish (including cosplay fetish), hair fetish, possibly also latex or PVC fetish (if the bra is to be interpreted as latex/PVC), uniform fetish, lipstick or makeup fetish, and mechanophilia, among other sexual fetishes and sexual kinks collaged for this figure composition (notice also the eyeglasses on the floor at bottom right to represent eyeglasses fetish). But the complete title of the panel—as well as the text on the painting’s central heart-shape image (“Sad/Bad But Not Kapoor”)— would seem to refer to this compound of various sexual fetishes as standing for both a “sadness” and “badness” in “our collective” society. How? “Sadness” (often expressed as a black or grey mood) is a result of what one cannot be or have. That is simply obvious. “Badness”, on the other hand (also often expressed as a black mood), is something more complex and latent. It can refer to human resourcefulness in finding ways of momentarily becoming what one cannot be, or having what one cannot have (a harmful stealing of another’s ham for a Christmas dinner, so that one can pretend to be someone able to afford ham for Christmas, is badness). In parallel, a sexual kink is a means to enhance partner intimacy through fantasy just as a fetish is a means to replace that intimacy, thus both a “badness” akin to human resourcefulness’ “badness” at achieving enhancements and replacements in human existence; unlike stealing, however, these latter badnesses are often harmless. Meanwhile, the black heart central image of the painting uses the conjunction “but” for the phrase “but not Kapoor”, to intimate that the blackness in this sadness and badness situation is at a merely sociological or socio-psychological level instead of at an Anish Kapoorian spiritual (Buddhist or Hindu) level (see Kapoor’s Symbolist or Neosymbolist spiritual claims for the black holes in some of his sculptures). But there’s a common point between those two levels: Kapoor’s spiritual black holes and this painting’s psychological black heart both treat of the color or non-color black as a positive color/noncolor (spirituality in Kapoor’s sculptures’ case and resourcefulness in
this painting’s case) instead of negative. . . . However, as a second meaning, this very heart’s mention of Kapoor would also inevitably allude to the controversy around the Kapoor-patented Vantablack pigment, which controversy would be signified in this feminist series or triptych as a product of a male possessiveness in Kapoor. That possessiveness can then be contrasted with a female motherly instinct to nurture everyone instead of one individual self, with this nurturing desire achievable through, say, the spirit of the commons. That communal maternal instinct might be represented in this painting’s heart image through its use of a commonly-owned black pigment. The whole metaphorical narrative’s alluding to commonality and community in this painting, therefore, again as per the direct allusion to it by the painter in his title, should lead us to assert the possibility of fetishism’s and the sexual kink’s being both common and even communal and not merely special (or rare among a few individuals). In that sense, the painting becomes a celebration of communal fetish or kink, or rather of communal or collective resourcefulness, leading to Christmas dinners of what the community can be or have. Which should explain why one of the costumes worn by the female figure is a Voltron costume. Voltron, after all, was not one robot machine but a composite or collective of several robot machines.
Veyra, Leda/Leather and the Swan (or, BDSM Religions), 2012-18, acrylic on canvas, laterally 48 x 31 Â˝ inches.
The other panel in the triptych, which could be the to-the-right-of-theviewer panel of Veyra’s Gingerbread series, is titled Leda/Leather and the Swan (or, BDSM Religions). While supposedly depicting the mythological story of Leda and the Swan, other elements in the painting transform that story into a BDSM scene. First, let us remember that the story of the mythological rape of Leda by Zeus appearing as a swan has through its history swung from being a story of divine rape to one of a rape that later turned consensual (forced seduction) and then, also, to one not quite a rape. Whichever is the more original version, the story has been acknowledged as a religious story (now called “mythological” through the lexicon of existing religions). By its parenthetical title, this Veyra panel hints a connection between that religious rape story (and, by extension, other similar religious “rape” stories, like the dove-represented Holy Spirit’s “choosing” of the Virgin Mary for an Immaculate Conception) and BDSM arrangements. The painter here implies (through his title) that, even in the age of feminism, perpetuated gender hierarchies or inequalities in religions continue to display a product of consensual power play no different from the consensual power play in BDSM activity where everyone derives pleasure and/or contentment from the consent and trust. Corollary to this allegorical statement, if one accepts that religions are also political, just as political stands are often also religious stands, then the context of the consensual arrangement is extended into the political arena. Crucially, the viewer/reader must note that the painter uses the acronym “BDSM” in his title to highlight a consensual arrangement, an arrangement also present in rape fantasy. This is to put his allegory in a plane different from one with a biastophilic/raptophilic or forced seduction context, both of which latter would presume a nonconsenting prey dominated through force by a predator. But it must also be noted that a viewer or buyer of the painting may actually prefer the non-consensual reading (say, the forced seduction one) on the painting as well as on the religions or political institutions alluded to by the painting.
Veyra, Mask of an Artivist Soul as a Middle-Class Aficionado of Social Realism, 200618, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches.
Outside of his triptych, Veyra also offers here a square painting titled Mask of an Artivist Soul as a Middle-Class Aficionado of Social Realism, which is Veyraâ€™s salute to the social liberals among the welloff, particularly those with a cultural bent. A mask-looking square painting that is really an indoor room still life (as much as it could be a personalityâ€™s portrait-mask) showing objects representative of the arts (picture-making, music, and literature), its title leads the objects in the painting to extend their art-cultural allusions to the political: politics in art, knowledge behind social realist or artivist positions (represented by the image of books in a cabinet, one of which has what could be a Chinese yellow star on its spine),
poverty (see the rural and slum pictures hanging on the brick wall as well as the books on the shelf appearing as the painting-mask’s incomplete set of teeth, which incompleteness is both pitiable for being broken and then fearsome for being red-bloodied), and social positions of privilege (having a brick wall, or bricks embedded on a concrete wall) presumably with a sympathy or pseudo-sympathy for the less privileged. This allegory of the aficionado of social realism (who has an artivist soul), then, who drinks from the more expensive beercan (see right foreground) than from the more affordable beer bottle, may of course function as a mockery of the middle class’ “mere” social liberalism or even pseudo-artivism, if one appreciates this picture from a radicalleft working-class position; but the artist would prefer a reading of it as a nod or salute to the social consciousness and sympathies/empathies of well-off citizens, a valuation that would result if the picture is viewed from the left-of-center true-social-liberal or even middle-class-socialist angle. After all, questions the piece might inspire may include the following: where is the painting being exhibited or displayed? That is to say, who are being targeted as its market (potential buyer) or audience? And though social liberalism may derive from both the poor and wealthy classes, has even socialism really been strictly a working-class movement? Should it be? And is this painting a self-portrait, alluding to the painter’s own social liberalism deriving from his lower middle-class position in society? Could the painting also be a question towards the peddling and consumption of social realist or artivist art? As for that last question, consider again that the painting looks like a mask. Why, you ask? Please note, as this could be what the painting is really most about, that while the mask can be a device for hiding a truth, it can also be just as useful for displaying or donning a representation of the character of a dream Other.
Veyra, Allegory of Apathies, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 14 x 10 inches.
Then thereâ€™s Veyraâ€™s little piece included here, titled Allegory of Apathies. This is a painting that, despite its intimate size, tries to
cover a lot of ground, although mainly as a depiction of political ambition represented by the image of a flying ballistic missile. First of all, the painting is thematically divided into two: a “war” sky part and a “peace” bourgeois lower part. That it is a bourgeois scene below, consisting of a classy terrace view of a modernist park with posh modernist landscaping around a darkish fountain area, pool, or pond, is significant (more about this significance later). In supposedly being the symbol of apathy towards leaders’ politics and war, the painting’s lower part presents a life composed of—as per the landscape and objects presented—high-class modernist architecture (note the geometrics of the landscape architecture and the materials of wealth and luxury indicated by their colors), (skinny-dipping) freedom, wine, and decor. This lower part’s apathy is further expressed by the absent reflection on its pool of the flying ballistic missile in the sky. But the title of the painting refers to two apathies, and the second apathy can only come from the point of view of the in-power warmonger represented by the flying ICBM in the sky. The in-power warmonger, then, as apathetic to the simple luxuries of life below—his people’s life of wine, topfreedom, and non-political art and architecture. But remember that leaders’ warmongering is either a product of greed or of bigoted arrogance. Greed. Bigoted arrogance. Either of which is a symptom of ambition and ambition’s expansionism. Are not these directions for ambition precisely what motor the chest-thumping selfishness behind a psychological apathy towards peoples’ love for luxury or simplicity and peace, whether these people or subjects are first-world wealthy or of the liberated peasant class? But what about the possibility of a third source of apathy? Finally, to tackle the significance of the artist’s choice to create a bourgeois representation of apathy instead of a peasant-class one at the piece’s bottom part, we might ask this: is the painting’s bourgeois, classyabstract asymmetrical geometric composition in effect being apathetic also to the more fluid or organic compositions of lower-income cultures? Why did the painter not paint a rural or slum scene instead of a posh hotel terrace scene? Or is the artist simply aware that the lower classes are actually only more acquiescent to leaderships they
can’t beat (daily gossiping against them) than apathetic? So, lest we suspect that the artist is trying to debate with his own left-leaning politics with this piece, attempting to try on a bourgeois view instead of a slum view apathetic to goings-on in government and geo-politics, we might try asking this instead: is the artist actually agitating that lower-income class culture to consider its own apathy towards the politics and economics behind classy geometric art and architecture, which apathy is what has led it to unknowingly help perpetuate its own culture’s self-assigned inferiority inside a plutocracy, a sense of inferiority that then aspires to climb up a bit on occasion? Or, perhaps knowing that paintings like this are seldom accessible to the lower classes, is the painter agitating not that class but his and the gallery’s middle or upper-class audience . . . to consider this class’ apathies not only to things going on upstairs but also downstairs? After all, that missile threat upstairs could actually be the threat of a future leftist revolution/triumph that would be welcomed, at least initially, by the enthusiasm of parties downstairs (the hotel’s servants, for instance). Finally, could the artist also be naughtily hinting here at an apathy of many art viewers toward emergent meanings, for instance emergent erotic meanings to be gleaned from many art compositions like this, no matter how political their intent? . . .
Anthony Palomo, Hangtime, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 40 inches.
Speaking of emergent meanings, the meanings in ANTHONY PALOMOâ€™s Hangtime may vary from reader to reader. In short, his images are a text that are quite open. Nevertheless, Palomo is never shy to refer to personal significations for the most personal compositions; never shy to close his text, if youâ€™d care to ask.
In this work, for instance, the artist testifies that, here, â€œdeepest faith mixes with the occult, surrender with (freethinking) wisdomseeking, distress with repose. The layered central image alludes to (a very personal story about) a loving grandmother sharing an alternate worldview with her devoted grandson and an artist-(grandson) paying homage to a woman who understood much. In this work, a personal memory (and an allegorical) cultural foreshadowing are reflected, both questioning and answering together in a re-imagined 12th Major Arcana for todayâ€™s perplexing times.â€? It is quite the allegory of distress that offers the perfect picture of hope within what it allegorizes, looking at the possible positives to all the confusing negatives.
Raymond Red, May Dilag ang Tula, 2018, short digital video, 2 Â˝ minutes.
Speaking of distress and hope, filmmaker RAYMOND RED here picks up snippets/clips from his previous films to come up with a short visual poem, titled May Dilag ang Tula, about womenâ€™s presence and role in struggles. The sum of it? It creates an allegory of the femaleness of struggle and the maleness of domination/oppression. As a corollary, it presents an elliptical note of resilience, often a product of a maternal-like protectiveness and of grace under pressure, but also of gender-less universal pain and its potentially accompanying will to exact vengeance.
Jon Red, HalusiNasyon, 2018, short digital video, 8 minutes.
An experimental montage of sequences from filmmaker JON RED’s past independent films in the comedy and action genres, HalusiNasyon explores the concept of martial law then and now, forming a mockery of our patriotism and, finally, an allegory of martial law’s kind of order, in turn an allegory of the mythmaking around martial law and a nation’s state of confusion swinging between faith in it and disillusionment.
Raul Arellano, Bagyo, 2009,oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches.
Raul Arellano, Pala-isip, 2009, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches.
Then, as if to further Palomo’s and Victoriano’s palette of symbols (or non-symbols) and choices stemming from that offer of symbolism, and almost as a disclaimer to our mother-series’ title (The Art Piece as a Closed Text), we have included RAUL DEODATO ARELLANO’s three paintings from 2009 in this show, titled Bagyo, Palaisip, and Anghel respectively . . . all of which present a marriage of the usual closed usage of the allegory to openness. In short, all the three works hazard to combine the closed text with free reading. Bagyo claims to be an allegory of a storm, Palaisip an allegory of a special sort of human mind, and Anghel an allegory of a vague “angel”. But note that Arellano gives us abstract images after claiming allegorical value, and it is through these very forms that he provokes the audience to read connections between his (the painter’s) allegorical claim and the abstracted forms within each piece and what these forms may be doing to the eye and finally to the mind that creates allegories. So, Arellano avoids in this show the traditional way
of expressing an allegory, preferring instead his allegorical stake to be both dictatorial (at the titling area) and democratic at the experiencing of the pictorial space. The dictatorial element is in the diktat that says, “hey, this is an allegory allegorizing _____.” As for the democratic part of the whole process, he says, “I want the spectator’s mind to swim in my paintings; kasi if I do traditional allegory, medyo ayaw ko namang sabihing makaluma tayo. Kasi kung puwede, at sa akin ang puwede ay ang dapat, maiba naman tayo.”
Raul Arellano, Anghel, 2009, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches.
To repeat, by Arellano’s method of doing an allegory—“in the modern way,” where he wants his audience's minds to swim—, the
allegory in his works comes firstly from the artist’s claims of being allegorical, which is the case with all directly allegorical works anyway, and completed—after staking the allegorical claim—by his leaving much leeway to the audience to connect the dots from within their respective personal pictorial experiences. That is to say, instead of the artist doing his allegory in the traditional mathematical way, wherefrom he would state specifics on the details, such as to say this red dot means this and that blue dot means that, he would challenge the audience to create their own maths instead. Is this the postmodernist way to allegorize? “(Sa panahon) natin ngayon, ang 12 years old na bata ay may 45 years old na mind exposure.” Arellano adds: “(Kaya) kailangan dalhin natin sila sa edad ng shutter exposure nila, through form and color.” [As for postmodernism, Arellano believes that it is not a chronological aftermath of modernism but exists (with its questions) within it. Arellano adds that the investigations and discoveries of the past are what the Modern era is composed of, and that the foundation of Modern art is not yet filled to the brim. After all, he says, we are still investigating (along with so-called postmodern questions) the true existence of our planet, and—he suspects—we will never come to a point of really knowing the answer. “How can we move to a ‘postmodern’ era if our history being told was false? And art is the only truth in the history of mankind. It is better than, or superior to, religion, as even the Catholic Church can only function with its art commissioned from enslaved artists with the power to access visions of divinity. We are still in the Modern era of art and we will stay there till this Modern era ends itself. Remember, the nuclear bomb was invented by the modernist scientists, and until those bombs are detonated by our own imprudence, the Modern era (and the so-called ‘postmodern’ era within it) will be inescapable.”] But why, with this abstract-modernist passion, would Arellano shun reawakening the past era of allegorical habits for his Modernist proposal? In 2016 he wrote: “Ang sining ay nagmumula sa tahanan ng lahi, buhay at panahon ng isang tao. Ito ay isang pag-aalay sa walang-hangganang batas ng pagbabago. Kung ang pagdaloy ng katapatan nito ay hahadlangan ng walang kabuluhan sa
pamamagitan ng paghuhukay sa libingan ng ating nakaraan, gulo at kalituhan lang ang iyong pinagyayaman.” If we may paraphrase that into an x number of English words, it would perhaps say this: the allegory’s past is past; the allegory’s present is where its future lies—in its modernity, in its contemporaneousness. But how should today’s modernist interested in the age-old subtle art of allegory-making apply his modernism into the art? The answer is really simple: “Hindi ko kailangan lagyan ng dumi ang isang larawan para ma-express ko ang kaguluhan ng buhay. The chaos of life lies beneath the skin. It's painful and it's a mess.” And that is also why not everything modernist is facilely ultra-expressionist (Neo- or what). But, again, why not just allegorize the pangs of life or its messiness directly, in the usual representational fashion? Why still cater to interpretative openness via abstract elements? “Hindi lahat ng tao ay nasa parehong kaisipan. Kaya binibigyan ko sila ng space upang magtanong at matagpuan ang kanilang sarili sa larawan.” Still, Arellano uses universalist expressionist imagery for his silently screaming parables. In Bathers (2009), for example, he poured out an intestines-looking lament of a work dedicated to the elopement of his eldest.
Raul Arellano, Bathers, 2009, 8 x 25 feet (not in this show).
Where, after all, does creativity lie in the art of allegory-making? It is not entirely in the creation of new symbols but in the use of old symbols for new contexts created by a symbol-composite within a
space. That symbol composite does not just include the perception of obvious referents in the real world hinted by semi-abstract figures, it also includes the double or sometimes triple references (or allusions) coming from all those shapes and colors in the composition as they are challenged by the title-subject to allegorize. So, Arellano’s open allegorizing in this show claims to express allegorical ideas or characteristics or values perceived by the imagination as lying beneath or behind images presented in the semiabstract expressionist mode, ideas or characteristics or values that may be familiar to those among us with the 45-year-old mind exposure of 12-year-olds, or, simply, those of us, young and old, with the capacity to read allegories into images, guided simply by titles and then by the almost-universal expression of colors, shapes, and memory. Now, to put all that in practice, how, for instance, can we allegorize the themes Arellano has invited us to allegorize in his pictures? Well, let’s see. Because Arellano chooses to allegorize the storm experience in Bagyo or the angel concept in Anghel not through textbook images of these but via abstractions of the same, we could come up with readings on the abstracts, such as this: both Bagyo and Palaisip have what look like eyes. Does that eye-presence help us allegorize the personification of a storm in the one and a thinking man’s third eye in the other? And we notice that Bagyo chooses not to focus on the geometric debris of typhoons but on the biomorphic ones. What does that say? Palaisip seems to suggest a man of action, a discus thrower, or Atlas. What, then, would that seem to say, in allegorical terms, after seeing Arellano’s allegorical challenge concerning the concept of a thinker? Then, Anghel may actually visually imply both an angel from art history and an angel from a Victoria’s Secret show from the present. What would that say about the concept “angel”? In 2003 Arellano wrote: “I am a man who inherits life from the provenance of our ideas of good and evil. Fate made me see myself pouring the essence of persuasion that only I will understand. What an obscure painter I am.” To paraphrase and adapt that statement: As
an allegorist, Iâ€™d be open and closed, opaque and transparent, esoteric and universal. . . .
Marcel Antonio, Allegory of Deceit, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 38 inches.
As for the issue of openness and closedness, MARCEL ANTONIOâ€™s sole contribution to the show, titled Allegory of Deceit, should be treated as a significant closed-text piece of work, not because it tackles the currently-hot issue of fake-news creation (many painters would likely have done that already) but because of an original take on the subject, set in wider allegorical terms. Above all it should be
deemed significant for potentially acting as the artist’s long-awaited explication for his long-standing obsession with ennui (what diskurso’s Jojo Soria de Veyra has labeled Antonio’s “blue funk erotica”). Let us explain that deeper significance at length. But first, let’s describe the picture: In the right foreground are sleeping lovers, setting the mood of the painting: the lovers’ ennui, or inactivity both mental and physical, is placed in this foreground corner to offer that image at the strongest spot of the rectangle to then allow for a Chagallian dream state to proceed throughout the rest of the vertical space. And while the events in this dream state unfold in a fragmented manner, incongruous with each other the way dream episodes are, the sum of these parts leads to a potential narrative. As an aside, note that a sub-text in the painting is already served here—seeming to say that whether dream fragments are presented by an artist by design (for whatever purpose other than semantical) or by accident (or by a “designed accident”, as with referential automatism or surrealism), they would always end up oﬀering the viewer-“reader” an allegory, or near-allegory if you will, regardless of whether we’d like that emerging threat of impending meaning or not. So, let us follow this usual Antonioan proclivity to tease us in the tensive border between non-meaning (the surrealist claim) and meaning (through the psychoanalytic stance, for instance), or between the inexplicable narrative and the total emblem, and choose now to further approach this piece from the allegorical standpoint. Antonio has, after all, been wont to dangle this latter approach in most of his pieces, either by titling them with the “allegory” word or with hints at some allegorizing. So, where were we? A lotus branch rests in the hands of the blissful lovers. “This ancient ﬂower is ripe with myth and symbolism, one of which alludes to the Lotus-eaters of Homer’s Odyssey,” Antonio informs us. In this Homerian signification, it is classically proposed that those who consume the lotus’s fruit shall end up deprived of memory (history) and the will to action (ambition). Meanwhile, a half-naked boy with spear and shield is here posed to
strike and challenge a huge boa guarding what appears to be the Tree of Knowledge. “(The boy’s) nakedness is the nakedness of Innocence”, or Truth—offers Antonio. The boa, as the green devil of envy, greedily grips the trunk of knowledge and truth. . . . Obviously, from here, Antonio understands that greed is envy’s twin, the tail to its head. In other words, from this understanding Antonio is able to underscore the fact of greed as an offshoot of envy of godly possessions. Moving on, from across a ﬁeld of houses (comfort or safety shells, one of which shows dark windows) hovers a tall house’s open, bright window. But this bright window is one whence a man is seen leaning out, and he has hands struggling to loosen a Cord that he may have tied around his own neck. The cord is also held by a devil standing behind the man, this devil ostensibly egging on the latter to hang himself, or perhaps simply there “watching with delight”, as Antonio puts it, “how the man has weighed himself down with the heaviness of his own vanities.” Again, here, Antonio understands the theological principle that says: The struggle of the Self, weighed down by the presence or absence of communal “likes” (see Facebook-like icon acting as dead weight or spindle to the cord), is a struggle of Vanity. The cord, therefore, while often a symbol of unity, could in another usage be just another religious signifier of envy-cum-greed that wants to “end it all”, a divider rather than a unifier. In the midst of all this symbology, the picture moves on to another big symbol—a Unicorn looming large at the center, a threatening or godly presence by its size, which Antonio put there in the middle of it all, like an overall gothic axiom, to instill a sense of anxiety in the whole narrative. “The unicorn as a fabled creature represents the power of the state of being untrue”, says Antonio, giving that state a dimension larger than what it seems. Here, in this state, “there is a sense that falsehoods can take a life of their own, sowing unease and apprehension like an erupting albeit distant Volcano, distorting objective reality with the triumph of emotions and irrational behavior.” The world burns because of the deceit and inﬂuence of scheming liars hiding truths in every human sphere, leaving in its wake the mark of ruined selves. “Crows ﬂying overhead signal such misdeeds like a
dreaded sense of foreboding”, narrates Antonio further. But why, in the midst of all this, would the couple in the foreground remain half-asleep? Well, here is the point, ladies and gentlemen. For here precisely is where Antonio differs from the usual bunch of visual social commentators. Whilst average social realists have ventured to illustrate the exploitation and deceit of the powerful with crying or near-crying images of victimization, Antonio chose—and continues to choose—to illustrate the social resultants of those exploitation with what he has always seen as the chronic cause of our colorful, Latinlike decay: sleep. So, to Antonio, the image of ennui (or seeming ennui) is never just a lullaby-like sight of boredom or sleepiness, nor one of submission to a sanctimonious atmosphere as in classical painting, but one informed with the complex formula of ignorance and ignorancemaking, a formula involving blinded folks and truth-hiders. And that intent is underscored here not once but twice, not simply via Antonio’s usual visual agenda of incongruous human figures competing for attention, but by his title, making this work almost the humble poetics we have been waiting for to finally say a word about his entire body of work. That is why we’d deem this piece as an all-too-significant member of Antonio’s roster of works now sleeping in the hands of so many collectors. Now, to offer another sub-text, could this, Antonio’s social statement concerning sleepy (or submissive) ignorant folks and their clever exploiters, be both political in context and aesthetic? Antonio would only choose to smile, leaving his market to choose its own path of Antonio appreciation. . . .
Alwin Reamillo, Marcelo H. del Duchampilar’s AleGloria, or The Pride Stripped Bare by Herr Batchelors, Même, 2018, installation art, varying dimensions.
Then there’s the equally socio-political and culturally-aware symbolic fervor of ALWIN REAMILLO who here contributes to the show an installation art piece on the same subject of ignorance and ignorance-
manufacture. Titled Marcelo H. del Duchampilar’s AleGloria, or The Pride Stripped Bare by Herr Batchelors, Même, it pays homage to—or appropriates—Marcel Duchamp’s allegorizations in The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even, otherwise known as The Large Glass. And if Duchmap's piece mocks the solemn interpreter of the bourgeoisie (according to Marjorie Perloff) at the time of dada art's or anti-art's revolt against the intelligentsia that created the horrors of World War I, Reamillo, in his installation behind the large glass of the gallery, parodies the anything-goes experimentation of the anti-intellectual Duterteist and Marcosist mythmakers of our time to mirror the Duterte government’s own allegory of the Philippine nation’s manipulability. The piece mainly refers to the black propaganda and fake-news, fake-history machine strength of an extreme-right-leaning government that has been used to its utmost against its enemies, to attack these enemies with in a sort of propaganda blitzkrieg as well as to forever lure its lie-loving supporters with for their continuing support. Reamillo dons the hat of a Marcelo H. del Pilar-cum-Marcel Duchamp, and then here acknowledges as well—through his title—the presence of the President’s San Beda College of Law batchmates as accomplices to his dictatorial formulae. The installation comprises two pieces, namely the 2016-dated Jose Rixal Eroe Nazionale as The Pride (after the Bride’s Domain in Duchamp’s The Large Glass) and Untitled (WreckenRoll Piano), dated 2018, as the Bachelors section of the referred Duchamp piece.
Alwin Reamillo, Jose Rixal, Eroe Nazionale, 2016, mixed media on constructed piano lids + objects, 4 x 8 feet.
Let us first talk about the piece behind the central piano bricolage. Titled Jose Rixal, Eroe Nazionale, this wall-mounted piece features Jose Rizal in a kind of magic realist portrayal of his celebrity as an ophthalmologist who also chose to be a famous writer-novelist-artist (part of the context of the overwhelming piano motif). This piece mainly stands for the type of “pride”, or produce, of the blackpropaganda or fake-history machine, the kind of product that would be the bride to the machine’s male aggression. “Painted over a pair of constructed piano lids, a conventional-sized parlor grand and its twin mirror copy, this diptych-like construction is suggestive of moth or butterfly wings,” describes Reamillo, “suggesting in turn a ‘flight of fancy’ where biographical and historical facts meet urban myth-making. This piece of my installation reanimates the fantastical claim concerning Rizal’s paternity of a future authoritarian leader and demagogue who would go by the name of Adolf Hitler, born in 1889 in the German-Austrian border town of Branau and who would spend his childhood in Linz. As the tall tale goes, Rizal met Klara Pölzl, Hitler’s mother, at a traveler’s inn where she was then working as a maid”—thus Reamillo’s placing an X instead of a Z in Rizal, to Nazify the hero’s name. [Written accounts in Rizal’s letter to his friends mark Rizal’s time in Germany as a student
of medicine at the University of Heidelberg from where he would also constantly travel around Europe as he tried to complete his two important novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.] “In our time of globalizing culture where a transnational mediascape is being dominated by fear/xenophobia, fake news/disinformation, demagoguery/right-wing populist politics, and reemerging fascism and its attendant culture of impunity, the work would like to critically engage its viewers to ask questions and reflect on possibilities of a more informed, progressive, and expanded notion of nation, identity and culture, and—hopefully—mend in the process the broken relationship between images and their meaning.” But how to make this mending happen? Note that this part of the installation is not merely an illustration of the proud myth Reamillo describes above, for the purpose of holding up a mirror to current right-leaning Philippine society and thus mock its musical myth-making and thence give it parody’s accompanying afterpiece-sounding slap. While it is indeed also an obvious parody of that type of din, an insult if you will, this is also more importantly a dissonant if not lamenting allegory of a nation’s mental disunity, a dirge about the haziness of things produced by ignorance, an overture to the power of gossip, and an ironic berceuse to the vulnerability of nationhood when wallowing in strong-seeming fantasias of idleness and faced by the chronic presence of information manipulators inhabiting an operatic mad scene. On a more positive note, as counterpoint to the negative note of mythmaking’s dissonant products, Reamillo’s artmaking around this populist mythmaking concerning Rizal also becomes a paean/salute to Rizal’s choice of a treatment for the Philippine social cancer of his time: not science, of which he was a stalwart practitioner, but art, specifically the novel’s and poetry’s musical-visual elements, more specifically the musicality of dark satire. To the attacks of the music of the lie, here comes the counterattacks of the music of dark comedy, a la Marcelo H. del Pilar.
Alwin Reamillo, Untitled (WreckenRoll Piano), 2018, mixed media on construction of piano parts and cable drums, sides 48 inches diameter x length 60 inches.
The Untitled (WreckenRoll Piano) in the foreground of Reamillo’s installation, meanwhile, resonates with allusions to the cocoa seed grinder and the road roller (as well as to the referenced Duchamp work’s chocolate grinder and drums), but is here placed as a construct in search of its own meaning. Qua construct or bricolage in search of its own meaning, it is made to work as the artist’s allegory for the meaning-making machine of creative disinformation and urban myth-making that churns out contrived fabrications to inhabit our culture as well as many others’. It is animated by found/lost objects, the way urban myths are, and here includes bullet shells for tuning pins (which also resonates with the Duchampian process of chance or accident or mistake that Duchamp alluded to with projectiles in his piece referenced here). Just like the dark brown shapes in Duchamp’s work, Reamillo’s piano-cum-steamroller is a representation of male aggression, the bride (or pride) of which is either victimization or false glorification
(here represented by the corrupted butterfly Rizal, which incidentally is also in a vaginal shape). And if the piano is representative of the Duterte government’s aggressive mythmaking machinery, can Marcel Duchamp’s name itself be played around with to form, say, Martial Du30champ, in reference to the Duterte camp’s iconization of the “Du30” logo and the same camp’s predilection to favor martial rule and dictatorship through their champ? That’s a Reamilloan thought, indeed. Reamillo placed his piano right behind the right front glass of the gallery. Now, remember that Duchamp’s piece with a long title is also known as The Large Glass—some critics have read that wall as concerning the position of breakable irrationality, there to critique the rationality that led to the Great War. Reamillo appropriates that context and uses the gallery glass here to then allude to the posh but breakable current resurgence of Fascism in the Philippines and elsewhere. Thus, if Duchamp was referencing musical machineries of mythmaking as part and parcel of the technology, machinery, and weapons of Fascism’s rational methodology in implementing violence and death, so is Reamillo here. In this sense, we could say that Reamillo’s artwork is itself a construction of a found allegory culled from a historical work of art that seems to have deconstructed history. Reamillo’s piano steamroller is also here inhabited by 30 manekinekos. We must understand that maneki-nekos are “beckoning cats”, thus soliciting your coming in, not waving cats merely out on a friendly campaign. Is this also suggestive of the Duterte government’s use of Big Tent politics? As mentioned above, Reamillo states that the “batchelors” in his installation title points to Rodrigo Duterte’s proclivity to appoint San Beda College of Law male batchmates, functioning therefore as the male principle behind his perceived fascism. In light of all these contexts coalescing and banging at each other to mimic the mythmaking machine’s function, Reamillo would like to advert to the unfixed, unhinged, temporal, or unstable contextualities of wrecking campaigns, dramatized here by his piano’s ability to rock and roll and his butterfly’s capacity to flap its wings.
Notice, likewise, that the piano, like the black-propaganda machine, does not have its essential mechanism for creating real music; “it is basically just an emptied shell,” says Reamillo. Nevertheless, its propensity to produce an abundance of empty shells is reflected here, in Reamillo’s unfazed portrait of fake information’s unabashed excess.
6. AFTERWORD: And so it has been demonstrated that, indeed, the allegory offers fundamental advantages to contemporary art, particularly Philippine contemporary art. One, it can be a device for a contemporary artist to show an ability to manage his own art’s semantics, as against the position of the artist as mere complainer towards a lack of critical talk around his art, or against the stance of the artist as mere skilled craftsman who has no clue where his art’s semantics may be heading. In this context, it both empowers the artist as well as demands more from him/her. After all, all art become famous through or after talk or discussions about them, the absence of which discussion relegates some of these art to the level of mere handicrafts. The allegory, for its part, is one of those tools that empower the artist to instigate talk about his art that is to his liking, but without sounding hard-sell at it. Two, it renders a good allegorical composition as a stand-alone signifier independent of a body of work in working towards a signification. That is to say, it can gather talk about that single piece without the help of other works under the same artist’s signature. That is to say, while a certain artistic thesis would demand a solo show comprising several art pieces for the elucidation or illustration of that artistic thesis, a good allegorical art piece is often its own show. The allegorical work can perhaps be likened to an artwork featured in an encyclopedia in an article about it, upon which article discussants discuss the artwork almost regardless of its artist’s other works. The allegorical work can also be likened to the art piece at auction, which must stand alone by itself and boast of its own value for presentation. Again, this is so because while some art can only be discussed in relation to its relatives in a series, or in a period of production, or otherwise as part of its artist’s body of works, an allegorical art piece exists almost by itself alone, discussion-ready as is. It becomes, therefore, precious in itself. Three, it can separate artists with a universal appeal in regards to their allegorizing (in their allegorizing, say, socialist politics today)
from those with merely parochial concerns (in these latter group’s allegorizing, say, their university’s lack of support for their school’s art department). Four, the allegory can be used as one of those devices that can simplify art appreciation without degrading art. Five, an allegorical art work necessarily possesses two basic values, its value as a visual construction and its value as an allegory. In other words, the allegorical art piece is both an art product and an illustration of an allegorizing thought coursed through visual means. Therefore, while a critic lambasting an allegorical art work might be able to pin down its value as a visual produce, in failing to corner its success as an allegory he will have likewise failed at defaming the piece as a whole. Thus, while a dismissal of Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even may hold, on grounds of a modernist indulgence that may have offended the academicist taste of the dismisser, the dismisser’s critique of the work’s alleged or perceived allegorizing would still be demanded. The collapse of such a latter critique would deny the success of the former dismissal. Again, this is so because an allegorizing act by visual means may turn out to be important qua itself as a visual essaying upon a subject or theme important to a viewer. Six, an allegorizing act by visual means can gain impact on the strength of its very allegory alone. Thus, while artworks are often deemed measurable for pricing valuation in terms of square inches or linear inches, wherein the price rises as the size increases, supposedly because bigger works create a readier impact than their smaller brothers (except when a small piece is displayed by its owner singularly in a big hall), . . . the impact of an allegory in a small canvas may actually impress an audience more than its cousin in mural size. This is so because allegories are often measured by their allegorizing act’s impressiveness towards a subject, as appreciated by an audience close to that subject; they are not measured by the loudness of their delivery alone. And, finally, the allegory as an artist’s choice can be an act of defiance. This could be an evolution of #1 above. Here, we can perhaps say that the artist has already chosen to create artworks that
people can discuss and return to again and again for other rounds of discussion, whilst before he may only have created art that people can be awed by for no more than ten minutes. And while in #1 he/she has been empowered by the allegory to become manager of his artâ€™s semantics, here he/she has started to use that power to defy insignificance.
The online catalog for the Allegoria I: The Art Piece as a Closed Text series exhibition at AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea, Greenbelt 5, Maka...
Published on Mar 15, 2018
The online catalog for the Allegoria I: The Art Piece as a Closed Text series exhibition at AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea, Greenbelt 5, Maka...