Monday, May 25, 2015

The Lopez Museum & Library

España y Filipinas, Juan Luna
Oil in canvas, 1886

The Philippines has a rich artistic heritage. Following the lead of Juan Novicio Luna who earned a gold medal for his painting, Spolarium, at the Exposición General de Bellas Artes in Madrid in 1884, many Filipino artists have gained international recognition and left an indelible mark in the art world. 

In this painting, España y Filipinas, two women representing Spain and the Philippines are seen with their back to the viewer. Spain or the motherland has her arm around the Philippines and she is pointing to a bright horizon. Notice the elaborate red dress of Spain compared to the simple dress of the Filipina. Class distinction is obvious here. The Philippines was under Spanish rule for 400 years and that bright spot on the horizon is supposed to signify progress with Spain leading the way.  It might as well be the prospect of independence.  (A few years after this painting was.created, the Philippines declared its independence from Spain in 1898.) But in fact, the painting is a subtle message to Spain to foster reforms, grant equality, and steer the Philippines towards economic prosperity.

Woman with Sword, Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo
Study for Per Pacem et Libertatem, Oil on canvas

Felix R. Hidalgo was a contemporary of Juan Luna. Hidalgo was awarded a silver medal for his painting, Las Virgenes Christiana's Expuesta al Populacho at the same exposition where Luna exhibited in 1884. In subsequent years, Hidalgo won a string of awards and recognitions including a gold medal at the Exposición de las Islas Filipinas for La Barca de Aqueronte (The Boat of Charon) which also earned a silver medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris and a diploma of honor at the Exposición de Bellas Artes in Barcelona. He received a gold medal for his participation at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 and his work, El Violinista (The Violinist) was awarded a gold medal.

Native Fruits, Fernando Amorsolo
Oil on canvas, 1950

Fernando Amorsolo is a well loved Filipino artist best known for his rural landscapes and portrayal of the dalagang Filipina, the Filipino woman.  Amorsolo grew up in the countryside and though his family moved to Manila after the demise of his father, he often traveled outside the city to paint the local scenery. With the exception of his works from the war years, Amorsolo's paintings are full of life, light and convey everyday scenes. It speaks volumes of happy times.

A section from "Search", Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab)
Acrylic on paper, 1985

Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab) is recognized as one of the leading artists of contemporary art in the Philippines. He was bestowed the National Artist for Visual Arts award in 2006. This year he celebrates his 50th year as an artist and the Lopez Museum is the first to host an exhibition of his life and art from the 1960's and thereafter. The exhibition, Frames of Reference, runs through July 4th. It includes BenCab's Soldiers, a charcoal, chalk and acrylic painting on hand made paper from the Museum collection together with a selection of art books, postcards, drawings, etchings, studies and mementos. It is a body of work that reveals BenCab's virtuosity and grasp of different types of media.  I was particularly attracted to his rendition of a Japanese woman from his ukiyo-e collection but my photo didn't turn out well. I'll share it here anyway.

Japanese Woman by BenCab

I found Galicano's painting displayed in the Propaganda Exhibition gallery. It caught my eye because it reminded me of European paintings from the Romantic period. It is traditional in style, employs light and shade (which has the effect of dividing the painting in two sections), and uses rich color brushstrokes to highlight the characters. Galicano uses drapery to add drama to the scene. The man in the foreground (wearing a salakot), is partially wrapped in the folds of green drapery, leaving his muscular back open as the drapery forms into a wave that enfolds a figure in the background who is supposed to represent Conscience.

Study for Allegory of a Farce, Romulo Galicano
Oil on canvas

The brochure explains propaganda in the following context: "Propaganda fleshes out the idea of myth-making and its ability to inspire change in society and conversely, the formation of fantasy or outright fallacy packaged as a promise that never gets fulfilled". This study is for the painting Siete de Agosto which alludes to a protest on August 7, 2009 by the art community against the lack of integrity of the selection process for National Artist of the Philippines. In the background is a person holding a sign which is a smudge in this study but quite clear in the original canvas. The sign says, Parody of the Arts. Allegory of a Farce is full of symbolism and leaves the viewer intrigued and begging for more.

Galicano blends the traditional style of painting with a contemporary theme. I learned that the vertical lines running down the center of the painting is a trademark of Galicano. It represents the "reconciliation of opposite poles and the merging of the subjective and the objective creating a new meaningful work of art".

The Propaganda Exhibition - Truth, Lies and Subtleties has been extended through July 4, 2015.

The Lopez Museum has a treasure trove of over 500 artworks and counting. Only a few are displayed at any time. The Library specializes in Philippine material and has a collection of 20,000 titles. The Museum is moving to a new location in the near future. Till then their address remains at BenPres Building on Exchange Road in Pasig. For more information about their hours and current exhibitions, check out their website: lopez-museum.com. 

*****

Images by TravelswithCharie



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