exhibitions , art fairs and special projects
"The Hybridity and Dynamism of the Contemporary Art of the Philippines"
"The Hybridity and Dynamism of the Contemporary Art of the Philippines" commemorates the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Republic of Korea. The Philippines is the first Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with Korea
The six-day exhibit is part of a series of art exhibitions shedding light on ASEAN countries organized by the Hansae Yes24 Foundation. Founded by Hansae Yes24 Holdings CEO Kim Dong-nyung, the foundation has introduced over 60 artists through exhibitions centering on Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar since 2014.
The exhibit is curated by Choi Eun-ju, now director of the Daegu Art Museum. Choi visited the Philippines several times and said that Filipino contemporary art has developed beyond expectations.
Ged Merino visited Seoul last weekend to host his signature wrapping workshop with Korean participants. Merino breathes new life and meaning into old objects such as books and shoes by covering them in recycled fabric and string. The encased objects connote a new relation between the object and the person who wrapped it.
KUWENTONG KUTSERO: Ganito Kami Noon
Newly arrived in Manila after a seven-year sojourn in Europe, Crisostomo Ibarra, the protagonist of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, hires a carriage to bring him to San Diego (a stand-in for Calamba, Rizal’s hometown). The ride allows him to reacquaint himself with familiar sights, amidst the throng “of so many coaches trying to escape,” some of them “drawn by magnificent teams of Shetland ponies.” He recognizes Padre Damaso, ensconced in an “elegant Victoria.”
Coming from Binondo, his coach passes by the Escolta, and crosses the Pasig River via the Puente de España. On the other side are sights that awaken memories of his years spent in city: the botanical gardens, Calle Arroceros, Tabacalera, and the hoary ramparts of Intramuros: “Ibarra looked away, to the right, and there saw Old Manila, surrounded still by walls and moats, like an anemic young girl wrapped in a dress left over from her grandmother’s salad days.”*
In Nick Joaquin’s masterpiece of a short story “Summer Solstice,” set in 1851 Manila, the upper-class family of Doña Lupeng and Don Paeng and their young sons are driven through the arrabal of Paco in their own carriage and by their own coachman to a grandfather’s home, for lunch. It is the longest day of the year, and the feast day of St. John the Baptist, celebrated to this day in San Juan, when passersby are doused with water.
Their open-air carriage is capacious enough for the family of four and permits the lovely young wife to stand and survey the religious procession: “‘Oh, look, boys—here comes the St. John!’ cried Doña Lupeng, and she sprang up in the swaying carriage, propping one hand on her husband’s shoulder while with the other she held up her silk parasol.”
These carriages, or carruajes de primer clase, were for the elite and are long gone. Not for them the humble kalesa (from the Czech kolesa, a light, one- or two-wheeled open carriage) or karetela, the jeepney of its day, patronized by the common tao. (Interestingly, Leonardo Sarao, founder of Sarao Motors, the famous jeepney manufacturer, was once upon a time a kalesa driver or kutsero, which explains why Sarao jeepneys often have a miniature horse figurine atop the hood.) Kutseros would have felt the pulse of the city, would have seen and heard a lot that would have been useful to the right parties.
During the initial stages of the American occupation, as the 1899 Philippine-American War raged, the kutsero often proved to be a gold mine of information for Aguinaldo’s government. Overhearing hIs American patrons he gleaned information which he then relayed to his compatriots.
Once the American colonial authorities were in place, they introduced the tramvia, streetcars meant as a more efficient alternative to the kalesa. But the kalesas continued to be kings of the road even as motor vehicles were becoming a common sight.
Today, in the twenty-first century, it’s hard to imagine them plying Metro Manila’s labyrinthine system of roads, with their flyovers, crossovers, and underpasses. Yet, relegated to near invisibility by the city’s chaotic, polluted, traffic-choked mess, and with their numbers greatly diminished, one can still hail a kalesa in Binondo, Divisoria, Tondo—the older, mercantile sections of Manila—to transport goods too bulky for a taxi. I recall as a child, on trips to Binondo, wondering, when the load seemed particularly heavy, if the horse could manage. But it always did.
Not far from Manila, the town of Plaridel, Bulacan celebrates its fiesta every 29th and 30th of December with a colorful horse parade, the "Pintakasi ng mga Caballero” featuring the kalesa. The town’s patron saint, St. James the Apostle, portrayed atop a white horse, is a symbol of hope to the kutseros. The highlight of the fiesta, celebrated since 1602, is the tilbury race, with celebrities and local politicians taking part.
That the kalesas and their owners have survived is a testament to their tenacity as well as their entrepreneurial spirit. As early as 1902 kutseros formed a section of the Union Obrera Democratica—the first labor federation In the country. They had the backing of the working class and the intelligentsia, and if needed, helped organize protest actions. Like the colonial elites, they were also intent on protecting their economic and political interests.
Just as Ibarra’s memories of the Manila are revived as he is driven in his horse-drawn carriage, Ged Merino’s Kuwentong Kutsero reminds us that the past is still with us. It is simultaneously an act of Proustian remembrance and an imaginative tribute to the hardy kutseros. The very title can be read in two ways: as often tall tales told by the kalesa drivers themselves to while the time away, and as the informal kasaysayan, or history, of this form of mass transportation and their working-class proprietors.
Merino’s fascination with these wheeled artifacts began in New York. He says he “was always attracted by the abandoned bikes, once symbols of mobility, now static objects that litter the streets. In Manila I noticed abandoned tricycles so my interest in modes of transportation becoming obsolete or abandoned started. The kalesa, functioning for centuries, is near the brink of extinction yet still is relevant and functional especially in Intramuros with support from the Intramuros Administration. They have become frontliners for the Department of Tourism. So my interest shifted to the kutsero."
He was introduced to the kutseros’ world by Carlos Celdran, the performance artist and flamboyant guide to Intramuros and colonial Manila. Hanging out with the kutseros, Merino learned about their lives, their traditions, and the challenges of survival. Purveyors of mobility, the kutseros themselves have little to no upward mobility. Kuwentong Kutsero links us to a time when kalesas were a common sight and to a storied world rich in irony and colonial-era history.
The show features three kalesas constructed with both discarded and fabricated parts, and in different configurations—symbols of abandonment at the same time that they hold the promise of utility. Additionally, the exhibition’s sound and video installations provide a context in which to contemplate these links to a little-known aspect of both our past and our present.
The sound installation consists of 6 to 10 standing speakers, strategically positioned around the kalesas , each playing interviews with individual kutseros. Projected against a wall, the videos will feature various interviews, the paths or routes of the kalesas, different tours, etc.
That the exhibition will be held at the Museo de Intramuros—formerly the historic San Ignacio Church, a Jesuit place of worship near the site of the original Ateneo—is only fitting, as the ancient walled city is one of the few remaining places where the kutsero still plies his trade, in the very same streets where his predecessors and their kalesas once were plentiful, and where the young Rizal and his classmates once trod.
The highlight of the show is the involvement of kutseros themselves, to act as gallery guides—not exactly straight from the horse’s mouth, but close enough! These latter-day kutseros belong to SAKSI (Samahan ng Mga Kutsero sa Intramuros). Twenty of them operate inside the walled city and in Rizal Park as tour guides, a valuable resource for the Department of Tourism. Through their kuwentos, in their own inimitable manner, they have much to teach us.
Perhaps just as important as the purely aesthetic reasons for the exhibition, Merino “wanted to show the Filipino’s resilience, persistence, and ingenuity in overcoming obstacles.” Given the (dis)temper of the times, Kuwentong Kutsero is not just one of the more innovative and significant shows of the year but a testament to the enduring humanity of the kutsero and of the ordinary Filipino.
*from the 2006 Penguin Classics edition, translated by Harold Augenbraum
LUIS H. FRANCIA
Curated by Nicole Decapia
PRACTICES FROM THE PERIPHERIES Taking cue from Art Informal’s 2018 invitational, curator-driven exhibition program for this space, Practices from the Peripheries is conceptualized as an interchange of five solo exhibitions by artists the curator has worked with whose medium/material, circumstance, theme, or politics edges them out of the mainstream canvas-biased art market.
Ged Merino’s practice of using thread and cloth also places him at the fringes of the market. His soft sculptures for the work “Memo-Random” speak of personal experience as an artist practicing in the New York (USA), Bogota (Colombia), and Manila (Philippines). As an itinerant artist, he is neither truly local nor a stranger, but more often an outsider. The individual works which comprise his installation are objects which he considers truly intimate, charged with memories of his practice in three countries. Displaced, they speak volumes about the artist who calls three countries his homes.
Memory thematically ties all the exhibitions together into an archipelago of meanings, where there is an exchange without diluting the individuality of the artists. Aspects of memory, from the ever changing remembrance based on the context of who one is at the moment, the choice of what to remember and what to forget, unconscious oblivion, and the active aspect of hope and faith, all figure in the five solo exhibitions of art practices from the peripheries. This exhibition is curated by Ricky Francisco.
(Photos c/o Patrick Ang)
by Patrick D. Flores
Ged Merino’s foray into the art scene in the eighties was fairly straightforward. After art school, he began to participate in group exhibitions within and outside the country to present his art together with peers; he also traveled to study. His experiments with medium, technique, and surface might have germinated in his engagement with printmaking on textile. Merino owed this passage to Manuel Rodriguez, Jr. whom he considers his mentor in New York. He shuttled between painting and printmaking, and between the two lay the surface of textile. To some extent, textile spoke to the material dispositions of the said disciplines. On the one hand, the ground of textile seems to require ornamentation by way of painting. On the other, it is meant to be reproduced. And so, the decorative and the reprographic condensed in Merino’s work in printmaking on textile.
This was a consciousness honed in the art world, one that prospered in the process of invention and innovation. There was a more primordial impulse, however, that led Merino to textiles. And it morphed at home. According to him: “My mother repurposed old fabrics; she would stitch, dye, and embroider, then make them into our house clothes or pajamas. She never saw herself as a creative person or an artist; it was a way of life. Her family grew up in the in the culture of repair, repurposing, and recycling.”
In tracing Merino’s arc of object making, therefore, it is productive to probe the more intimate impetus. Textile here becomes a realm of memory in which the artist weaves his biography with his art history through a material that threads through seemingly separate, even disparate, worlds. Inflecting this mode of making that significantly shaped his creative habits was his training in art school, the site perhaps where he learned to value the risks of mingling media to offer new forms and to think about the implications of both technology and the art that it yields. These two matrices of formation were crucial in enhancing the acumen of Merino. And this engagement and sympathy with painting, printmaking, and textile would serve him well in his future endeavors.
A turning point in his career was 2009. In his recollection, he spoke of scarcity: “When I resigned from my day job…I realized I did not have money for store-bought materials. Not having the cash flow I had to re-evaluate and look around. I looked into my closet and found shoes, clothes, and other things that I kept over the years. Living in New York City nearly half of my lifetime, I accumulated things and objects reminiscent of home. A realization came to me after spending several years in Manila working on projects, triggering an immediate reconnection with my roots and culture – most strikingly the contrast between poverty and waste. Fascinated with the questions of why we buy and hold on to things, and why we throw some away, discarded materials eventually became my focus.”
We glean from this account of the artist the elements of his repertoire. First there is the miscellany through a gathering of belongings. Second there is the mixture of discrepant things. Then finally there is the procedure of bundling them together, of stuffing, of binding wth a certain punctiliousness. This multiplicity is not far away from printmaking. The ornamentation brought about by sheer variety and incongruity among artifacts may well be a painterly effect. But the third moment is the installation of sculptural fiber structures that crosses the gaps across painting, printmaking, and textile.
Merino continues to articulate the basis of his forms: “Currently, I use personal belongings and objects discarded by other people, a way of collecting artifacts from people’s lives, and repurposing materials into my artistic process. It is almost like archiving sentimentality.” In the end, he is haunted by possession and disposal. By reclaiming objects from nostalgia and waste, he restores in it a historical process referencing the different ecologies that have hewn it.
For this exhibition, he pursues the anxiety of personal history that is also his art history. The node in this network of material affinities across the years is the nexus between Manila, Bogota, and New York. In his own words: “We temporarily moved to Bogota Colombia, and while my studio was in New York, I took with me to Manila household objects I had in my studio and home in New York. I also brought with me found objects that reminded me of my neighborhood and New York. Discarded sweaters, gloves, and other clothes, especially abandoned bicycle parts some still chained to the posts and broken umbrellas that litter the streets after a downpour. And if I could not bring them, I purchased similar objects in junk shops here.” This is the initial articulation of the project: a transposition of experiences made possible by migration and settlement. And it is largely realized through the contact between fiber work and photography. At this point, print, textile, and image conspire to muster a collage, an artistic achievement that may well be a beginning of something new for the artist or a re-encounter with previous preoccupations with intermedia.
Then comes an elaboration: “I also am fascinated with some jeepney doors I see in the streets here in Manila, which however are not available for the taking. I had them fabricated. I guess in some way abandoned bicycles and jeepneys are/were objects of transport, like transitory sculptures and their momentary existence in some way is similar to my ambivalent state I am right now as I shuttle between New York, Bogota, and Manila. I somehow absorb all the energy and the visual stimulation each city emits yet on the other hand feels a sense of displacement.” This instance refers to the ambivalence of a migrant’s presence in a place that seems to move like vessel, like the jeepney, which on its own tells a history of transformations from wartime vehicle to popular public transport.
All this stirs up the energy that pulsates in Merino’s figures and plots out an environment. It seems that his his stuff and his contraptions are secure and assured in their places. But then again, we see the rough edges that threaten the density. The ties that bind his works are the same ties that give way in the nervousness of constant passage from site to site. The unease may be discerned in the hybridity of the sculptures in which living and machine forms contrive mutant creatures; or in how delicate personal photographs graft onto bricolage that resembles cocoons and pieces of luggage; or how industrial junk cohabits with very vulnerable filaments of fabric. These tensions spin the very fiber of Merino’s art.
"Lost Sentiments" a site specific installation at the inaugural opening of The Manila House, 8th floor, Net Park, Fifth Ave. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 1634, Philippines.
Receptacles of comforts
Psychoanalysis, particularly that of Donald Woods Winnicott’s, expands the study of transitional object or phenomena as more than the simplified idea of what we know as “comfort objects”. The activities that craft people’s nascent journey of understanding the not-me(ness) of themselves are identified through gestures of attachment and wearing out – as if the object is held on to like a remaining shred to survival or a golden key to encountering the external world. As Winnicott lists these activities as a way to understand that his primary interest in the transitional object is ultimately the intermediate space between “the thumb” and the thing that is latched upon. It is the play area of experiencing the world that is both conceived and actual. Ged Merino considers this phenomenon as a way into constructing his sculptures. Ironically, Winnicott brushes upon the performance of art and religion as possible examples where this “magical” space of imagination and creative, fetishistic living persists.
Merino collects things, and his migratory history includes a movement of physical things. His version of the comfort blanket is a collection of comfort scraps, gathered and transferred and bound for the creation of a totally new object. There is a peculiar line between archival gestures and the bonding in the sense of transitional objects – the operative forms of desire are similar, yet the purpose to wean to the world acts differently. When the artist photographs discarded things, the context that spills over is one of being pre-loved – the trajectory of time almost runs anachronistically because, as much as the cultural period could be deduced from the production and circulation of the object, what permeates is a personal, diachronic time. The history that Merino distills from these objects is a history of that “intermediate space” that Winnicott recalls as that state of being merged or unified to the stage where the object is then outside of/separate from oneself. Making out the materials of Merino’s sculptures is more than identifying the potentialities the scraps have met. Rather, the gestures that make them is an exercise of having found them weaned from a world of their original functions to another world created also through our own subjectivities. They are distorted and have taken up classical saint-statue poses – it is as if they have taken the very form of what we are called to learn to separate from in the first place. These sculptures are spectral as they form into figures and things that are ultimately abandoned – like religious sculptures deteriorated by historic time still considered by devouts to be radiant with its original promises.
The artist’s last series unfurled these soft sculptures – some took on forms that hint at comfort objects too, but of the sort that are amicable to childhood season: perhaps a teddy, a shoe, objects previously desired for until the wish/fondness wear out synchronously with materiality. Succeeding this series are the works in “Transitional Objects” which are allegorical to religious statues, as Merino resonates with the notions of “aura” persisting beyond the deterioration of time. Like religious structures in ruin, these excesses are a badge of what endures – and that is the intermediate area of what we can possess as the symbolism of wonder towards a world constructed in the recognition that there is a not-me.
Speaking of excesses, the materiality of Merino’s object contains are expressed in the simultaneous existence of layers. These sculptures seem to be spilling from the seams, but the gesture of the artist is one that is wrought in fastidious manner of containing. The three-dimensionality does not eliminate the ways in which Merino is a painter as he masters the extension of a plane: the demarcations have been set in these works in “Transitional Objects” and every other sculptural work that projects from his hand. If his previous “Catalogue of Desire” posits a claim on excess, what then is the excess in the phenomenon of weaning?
As the works continue to be moved by the practiced intuition of abstraction, they contain that physical density. They are bound by fabric around and over repetitively, they are summations of obsessive motions. However, they are bound and distorted, amorphous tactile beings that revere those things that usher us into a generous reality-acceptance.
A Stitch in Time
The encounter with thread and textile is oftentimes overlooked, dissolving into the mundane: moments invisible yet occurring with daily regularity. Yet one can not go through the rhythm of daily life without relying on some type of fabric in the process: as shell and shelter for self, as a way to demarcate and connect with the world beyond. One’s being is held together, very literally, by seams.
The material qualities of fabric have likewise served the pursuit of art production. The history of Philippine art is replete with exquisite examples of textiles, such as traditional indigenous weaves and colonial-era creations such as nipis,calado, and embroidery, which now populate museum and private collections, locally and abroad. Contemporary Filipino artists, on the other hand, have responded to textiles as a material for artistic innovation: Manuel Rodriguez Jr. used fabric as a printmaking ground, Paz Abad Santos combined traditional forms to make tapestries, while Imelda Cajipe Endaya and Norberto Roldan incorporated these in their assemblage works. And fabric need not only refer to exclusively natural or indigenous materials: Christo and Jeanne-Claude used synthetic fabrics for their colossal land art projects, for instance.
‘Common Thread’brings together the works of three Filipino visual artists currently exploring the use of textile and thread as a material for contemporary art. The first time for all three to work together, this exhibition underscores points of connection and intersection between their individual artistic practice.
Using both manual labor and machine for sewing on handmade paper and canvas, Raffy Napay explores the facets of thread as both medium and material of representation: first, as a line to define silhouettes and form, and second, as a means of tracing movement and travel. Napay’s wall-bound works can be contrasted with the three-dimensional quality of Ged Merino’s‘Creatures’—strange beings which are whimsically yet methodically constructed using recycled and found fabrics—and Aze Ong’s‘Bathala ’series, which conversely feature an array of freestanding and interactive crochet sculptures.
In a milieu where the globalized production and distribution of fabric and garments
makes material the reality of migration, capital, labor and production, the foray into fabric as artistic production holds enormous potential for discussion. In this light, ‘Common Thread’is a timely gesture that challenges artists and viewers alike to rethink the possibilities and the political economy of thread: these innumerable ties that bind us all.
Curators Todd B. Richmond and Paz Tanjuaquio have long been inspired by Joseph Cornell, an American artist who lived most of his life on Utopia Parkway in Queens where he created his renowned works that influenced the genre of assemblage and collage. For Case Studies, Topaz Arts presents a group exhibition of New York City artists whose works take a contemporary approach to collage, assemblage, encasing, and sculpture – featuring Joseph Paul Fox, Ged Merino, Orange, Roger Rothstein, Junko Yamada, plus special guest artists during the exhibition, on view from March 12 to May 7, 2016, opening reception on Sat, March 12, 3-6pm.
There will be a closing reception on Sat, May 7, 3-6pm, in conjunction with an informal performance by Dylan Crossman at 5pm in the dance studio for Topaz Arts Series: Choreographers in the Studio.
The Equivocal Life of Things
In this writer’s conversation with the artist Ged Merino, autocorrect has given way to a tangent that nitpicks at the value we attach to things. The artist was describing the phenomenon of having things kept away indefinitely and the inability to rid of them despite their disjunct function to realities we presently keep. Autocorrect has published it as “humanistic” when in fact Merino meant “humoristic” as a point to make in the irony of holding on to things. However mystifying, the trajectories we imbed to objects is in fact a human exercise. In the matter of attachment, the value of things are in how they circulate – akin to gaining and moving through a social life. Ged Merino alludes to peculiar periods of things when their “original” function for which they are constructed for is no longer such. Rather, they are reconfigured to suit a new design – from a playful arrangement to becoming an available fixture to hold together an apparatus, amongst many permutations. The hashtag #foundblisscreated by the artist leads to an Instagram grid of thumbnails abbreviating such white elephants on the streets as he maps a geography of “abandoned” objects in public spaces. These images would considerably inform Merino’s tendency for repurposed and repurposing materials. This notion that value is held over objects that endures the caprice of owning them is employed by Merino by recovering textiles and other objects to construct his works.
This oxymoronic conjecture between attachment and resistance to fixate could perhaps lead to an understanding of the mechanics of desire. As the former extends life beyond an object’s predisposed function, perhaps resisting the desire to possess them (from the get-go or for long) then prompts the activity of repurposing an aspect of the object. It could only be guessed that it is these two states (or, more aptly, the solipsistic sequence) that that Merino inquires into when fending for materiality in his life and practice. With the notion that discarded materials were always possessions at some point, the artist often uses personal and found objects.
“From the Catalogue of Desire”, the current project undertaken by Ged Merino, follows this trajectory by alluding to the significance of ordinary articles of life fading proportionally as they lose their original functions. The anamorphic figures formed by the volume of materials hint towards things that are anticipated to garner sentiment as they wear out. Perhaps suggesting the shape of a shoe or a stuff toy, these fabric art are constructed with materials accessible mostly in Manila, where Merino worked on this series this year. In the documentation of his process, we are introduced to the alleys and crowded bangketas(sidewalks) of Manila. The artist’s hand extends now and then to acknowledge the fabrics printed with high-end brand logos and symbols of mass culture – a plethora of colors and icons mirroring the bustle of life that surrounds them. We continue then to witness Merino cutting up textiles and compressing foam, eventually twisting and binding all these materials in intuitive and scrupulous gesture to construct these freestanding three dimensional pieces. From the previous series (“Metamorphosis” in Drawing Room Manila, 2012) of draping fabric artworks, Merino expands the sculptural potential of his interest in materiality. The fundamental characteristic of textile as flat and one-dimensional is overcome as he layers them over and around each other. Aesthetically consistent, Merino’s works bear his trademark tendency for abstraction as an accumulation of multiple conditions surrounding his practice. And yet, they stand as iconic anatomies clustered by tonal values and formalistic build up.
Navigating through the threads that bind Merino’s sculptures in “From the Catalogue of Desire”, we sense this entanglement of things that are no longer whole or complete in their original purpose. While we are left with an extracted portion or the last existing scrap, it likewise suggests an excess of them. Very much like desire, these works are wound up with the crosshatch of an incapacity to part with something which has an ambivalent purpose in the first place. Hence, Merino archives and builds up everyday things as an exercise of giving density and form to an otherwise abstracted experience.
Galeria Expreso Del Arte
Mayo 21 2014
SINGAPORE—In this city state’s flagship art fair that focused on Southeast Asian art, artists and galleries from the Philippines proved they could compete in the global art scene.
Nine galleries and 30 artists from the Philippines participated in the fifth Art Stage Singapore held Jan. 21 to 25 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center.
Art Stage Singapore is one of the biggest art fairs of Southeast Asia.
Prominent galleries from different parts of the world graced the fair.
Filipinos dominated the fair’s Southeast Asia Platform titled “Eagles Fly, Sheep Flock—Biographical Imprints: Artistic Practices in Southeast Asia,” with six artists represented by four Philippine-based galleries.
The Drawing Room had Yason Banal and Ged Merino. Silverlens represented Wawi Navarroza and Gary-Ross Pastrana. Kiri Dalena was with 1335 Mabini. Buen Calubayan was presented by 1335 Mabini and Blanc Gallery.
The Southeast Asia Platform program of Art Stage Singapore gives a perspective of the different arts in the region. It aims to introduce the art of Southeast Asia through biological sketches from selected artists. The selection varies, from paintings to installations, photography and performance art.
Curated by Alfredo & Isabel Aquilizan. In celebration of Filipino American Heritage month, Promdi Archipelago is a group ex- hibition of diasporic artists’ works based in Paris, Brisbane and New York; reflecting experiences of migration and relocation. In conjunction with a screening of the docu- mentary film: Storm Children by Lav Diaz, a moving reflection on climate change and human resilience.
Bliss on Bliss Art Projects > MAP
4149 45th St. Ground Fl., Sunnyside
Recurring Dreams with Black # 4
Recurring Dreams with Black and Gray
Recurring Dreams with Black # 6.
Recurring Dreams with Black # 2
Recurring Dreams with Black, Olive and Burgundy
Conversations with Manuel # 1
Beneath the Surface, Structures and Scratches
Jeho Bitancor. 2014 NYC
What does it mean to embody a problematic stance of both trudging on a claimed unfamiliar ground, while reifying the almost inadmissible, yet cathartic identification with ones roots? To what cause do artists invest themselves into, and at what cost? Is it a result of ones sheer hubris that owes disbelief?
For Ged Merino, the practice of art is simply a continuum. A still evolving prospect from a history of (his) learned and perfected traditions that asserts itself on all circumstances, whether it be from a privileged position or a squalid one. His (art practice) is a constant/conscious mining of resources afforded by memory, if not a means to subtly confront hegemony.
One can only sense his primordial impetus, as a plethora of artifacts adorn his studio cum gallery. From the scattered Santosand Bul’uls, to woven Tinalaksand Pasikings, dusty paraphernalias and heavily textured abstract paintings inspired by his Father’s stories all connect him to his native Philippines. Apart from his works, these are his woven tapestry of tales. They scream unheard in the confines of the periphery, yet are indicative of his formal explorations and identification with his origins.
To foreground Merino’s practice is to recognize his bent towards process-oriented artmaking. Trained at the Philippine Woman’s University in the 80’s by Manuel “Boy” Rodriguez Jr., he had early on insisted on making his marks through thin application of ink or acrylic paints on textiles, which he stitched and stuffed to create protruding or relief elements onto an equally printed surface. The result was neither a painting nor a sculpture but an approximation of both. Was it Fiber Art or Soft Sculpture? For the artist, categorization was insignificant as long as he was able to pursue a singular vision – that of utilizing his abstract sensibilities while employing hard-learned printmaking techniques.
Of recent, and as a result of his conscious engagement towards contemporary strategies, the artist’s method had to shift its means and modes. To quote the author’s short note during an exhibition in New York: “ Relative to Filipino’s penchant for diligence,…Ged Merino employs unconventional means of image-making. His textile-based works were stitched prints sourced out by rubbing, hammering on objects and scratching onto any surface with texture from among the scattered detritus, walls, streets and pavements of his neighborhood in Queens. For the artist, it is a way of collecting artifacts from people’s lives, a sort of archaeological expedition where he sought to record traces of the living and thus preserving memories as links to the otherwise forgotten existences.”
This applies to his recent series of printed dragonfly wings on rags and scrap fabric in uneven, varied shapes. Except that he has made the material as subject itself, emphasizing its pliant and tactile qualities. Staged or configured as a clothesline or sampayan , these tightly knitted minutiae of inscribed worlds or universes are echoes that constitute yet another metaphor on top of another. Already, the insect’s wing as image would lend associations with vulnerability and the need to re-asses societal priorities. How apt that they managed to rest on a seeming disarray of pastiche and squalor while projecting a masterfully crafted if not seductive presence. It is as if makeshift homesteads commonly known as Barung-barongor shanties suddenly revealed their festive spirit from beneath, and amidst the chaotic burgeoning of claustrophobic, but nevertheless livable spaces. In some pieces, there are even small stitched patches that seem to hide or deny a trace or evidence of a defective state. One can easily associate Imelda’s effort to cosmeticize poverty by erecting fences over Manila’s “eyesores” during an American President’s visit in the 80’s. In fact, the image is ripe with all sorts of interpretation that parallel politicking in the still Feudal social relations. Could it be that the artist’s subconscious was operative as he creates while empathizing with the fate of his nation? Filipinos can after all find the happiest moments in the worst of times. Or, the artist is simply adept in the language of irony.
This and his recent foray into weaving discarded materials are but subliminal reparations of the looming historical incongruence, both in his native country and his adopted home. The threat as signaled by man-made and natural occurrences only alarms the progressive elements in society, artists among them in particular. Ged Merino finds himself critical of squandering and deceit in his unforgiving world that defines lavishness as a way to live. And drawn by the trend, or necessity, he laboriously transforms refuse into objects that question its legitimacy.
As an artist, Ged Merino can only scratch a pavement or ransack a bin at a time. This, while asserting a commonality we shared as humans. In respite, he shares his studio with fellow strugglers, artists of able support, kindred spirits all, who at one time or another had blissful moments at Bliss on Bliss Art Projects.
Metamorphosis in Orange
Metamorphosis in Black, white and Gold
Metamorphosis in Black, White and Burgundy
Metamorphosis in Gray
Jeho Bitancor. 2014 NYC
Galeria Expreso Del Arte Bogota, Colombia May 2014