COMPANY Abroad: Visiting ManilArt 2011

COMPANY Abroad: Visiting ManilArt 2011

Rhoni Blankenhorn for COMPANY

(August 29, 2011) Last weekend I had a chance to check out ManilArt 2011, the Philippines’ third annual international art fair, at the NBC tent in Bonifacio Global City.  Featuring twenty-four contemporary art galleries, ManilArt incorporated several lectures, indigenous and modern music, dance, and a special exhibit centered around one of the country’s most revered heroes, J.P. Rizal.  Aside from the Filipino flavoring, ManilArt was reminiscent of NYC's own Pulse and Scope. The spectrum was varied, from dry hotel art to edgy contemporary, to a miniJeff Koons look alike.

Olan Ventura grabbed my attention at West Gallery. His painting Side View has an animalistic alien feel to it that lingers, and at first glance it looks like a high definition photo negative.  A similar Olan piece called Front View was also on exhibit at the fair.

Louie Cordero had a few pieces up at Blanc Gallery. Known for his Philippine flavored gruesome monsters and zombies, it’s easy to see why Louie has been featured in Juxtapoz magazine.  Jonathan Levine Gallery hosted Sacred Bones in 2010, his debut New York solo exhibition.  I was drawn to his piece Lead Brothers by the brainy gore, and by the freaky Asian twins with their jaws hanging out.

Batang Edsa by Elmer Borlongan is a haunting portrait of poverty stricken Manila, where young peddlers selling garlands of flowers, cigarettes, and candies are commonly seen weaving through traffic.  Though the painting is pretty simple, these leering children affront the viewer with piercing eyes and gaunt faces.  Elmer is represented by the Boston Gallery, a contemporary Philippine gallery named for the street it is located on.

Leeroy New at Manila Contemporary had the most unique installation at the fair.  Each of Leeroy’s bulbous, glowing sculptures has a different theme, including shag-furred lady parts and fluorescent penises.  Keep in mind that the Philippines is a devastatingly catholic country, so art with sexy-time subject matter is already pushing the envelope. That being said, this installation could easily stand outside of that context.

After reading about the controversy of Mideo Cruz’s recent show, I was happy to see one of his pieces in person.  This piece is very different from the controversial installation he received so much attention for.  Showing with Galleria Duemila, Mideo’s fancy moon men are shown against a wallpaper background.  I can’t say it’s my favorite piece of his, but it has a real Brooklyn feel to it.  The western clothing harks back to years of colonialism the Philippines endured.  

After walking through a bunch of mediocre hotel-lobby-ish art booths, I welcomed the Technicolor burst of sunshine at Secret Fresh. This combination toy store/art gallery even carries some Kid Robot, and reminded me of Triston Eaton’s  crowd.  It’s humbling to see the reach of New York City’s cultural influence.

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