6 year-end exhibits that caught our eye

A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology highlights the many benefits of visiting art spaces – reducing stress, combating loneliness, and making life more meaningful through the contemplation of art pieces. It’s no surprise then that the art industry went through a transformation during this pandemic when galleries and museums could not be visited. Through online exhibitions, the art world expanded its community on virtual platforms that anyone could experience.

The culture of “gallery-going” is back in full force, now allowing a larger in-person audience. Apart from mask-wearing, vaccination requirements, and new opening hours, the variety of contemporary art in the Philippines is thriving, if not with more vigor after the many projects, collectives, and collaborations conceived over the last few years. There is something for everyone in ways of location and tastes as well.

We put together a round-up of the best Manila shows that mark the start of 2022 coming to a close.

1. Group exhibition, ‘Phylogeny of Desire’ at MO_Space

A work by Marionne Contreras. Photo from Mo Space
A work by Marionne Contreras. Photo from Mo Space

Does the name Dr. Leonard Co ring a bell? Till his untimely death in 2010, Dr. Co was considered the most respected authority in ethnobotany in the Philippines. A field botanist and plant taxonomist, his work was indispensable to building literature on native plants for the Philippine people. Curated by artist Ronald Achacoso, the exhibit shows the work of about 50 esteemed artists, botanists, and plant enthusiasts, in homage to the late botanist. The work shows flora in a variety of mediums, from acrylic to oil paintings, found objects, sculptures, and video works that highlight both the science and beauty of nature. 

Through November 12 to December 5, 2022. Plan your visit to MO_Space, 3rd floor, MOs Design Bldg, B2 9th Avenue, Bonifacio High Street, Taguig at https://www.mo-space.net/visit 

2. Zean Cabangis, ‘A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place’ at Artinformal Makati

Zean Cabangis, gallery 2. Photo from Artinformal
Zean Cabangis, gallery 2. Photo from Artinformal

Anything by Zean Cabangis is bound to be one of the most eagerly-awaited shows of the year. A consistent artist on the roster of Artinformal gallery, Zean Cabangis’ work continues to transform memories into images that feel half-real, almost imagined scenes. Since 2019 he has been incorporating observations as a cyclist into his work, directing attention to roads’ cracks and imperfections. 

‘A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place’ takes up all three rooms of the Makati gallery space. On the first floor are lightboxes that double reflections – illuminating pictures of the puddles on the ground that capture the sky above. The second room shows his sought-out emulsion transfers on variously shaped stretchers. While the third small room presents brightly colored image transfers of leaves on the cement floor. To experience the color, you have to see it in person.

Through November 5 to 26, 2022. Plan your visit to Artinformal Makati, The Alley at Karrivin Chino Roces Ext. Makati, at https://www.artinformal.com/ 

3. Phyllis Zaballero, ‘Fondly Remembering Spain, Recordando España con cariño’ at Instituto Cervantes

A painting by Phyllis Zaballero, ‘My Sixteenth Summer, Barcelona’. Photo from Instituto Cervantes.
A painting by Phyllis Zaballero, ‘My Sixteenth Summer, Barcelona’. Photo from Instituto Cervantes.

Seasoned artist Phyllis Zaballero is well-known for her oeuvre, which evolved from abstract paintings in the late 1970s to windows and figurative works in recent years. Throughout these changes, her work always suggests an emotionally textured past. ‘Fondly Remembering Spain’ is a retrospective of works documenting her links to the Iberian Peninsula, organized by Instituto Cervantes and in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy, with a collection of paintings from private collections and the artist.

Inseparable from her work are the artist’s memories as a young girl who lived in Barcelona till her father’s untimely death. Later are paintings that capture memories with her family, in the sunlit streets of historic cities like Sevilla and Cordoba, to memories with friends along festive avenues or on Catalan beaches. The impressions of Spain are not without tablescapes full of paella, cochinillos, and pitchers of Sangria. Rightly set at the Instituto Cervantes location in Intramuros, the spirit of the exhibit shows the welcoming nature of the country, as well as the artist’s own sentimental Spanish art journey.

Through November 10 2022 to January 22, 2023. Plan your visit to the Instituto Cervantes, 385 Real St, Intramuros, Manila, at http://manila.cervantes.es or https://www.instagram.com/institutocervantesmanila/

4. Kidlat Tahimik, ‘INDIO-GENIUS: 500 Taon ng Labanang Kultural’ at the National Museum of Anthropology

Kidlat Tahimik installation work. Photo from the National Museum of the Philippines.
Kidlat Tahimik installation work. Photo from the National Museum of the Philippines.

Under august halls and stained-glass windows, Kidlat Tahimik’s work is a must-see if you’re in the National Museum complex. Basketry hangs from the ceilings, while shells, dried palm trees, stones, and sand occupy a boat reworked out of wood wreckage from typhoons. The ambitious installation of Kidlat Tahimik tackles themes of neo-colonialism and the cultural struggles of the people in Philippine history. The exhibit opened on October 22 in celebration of Museum Galleries Month. All spaces are free of charge and accept walk-ins. 

Opened October 22. Plan your visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, P. Burgos Drive Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila at https://www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph/ 

5. Arianna Bongato, ‘Salt’ at Whitewalls Gallery

Works by Arianna Bongato. Photo from Whitewalls Gallery.
Works by Arianna Bongato. Photo from Whitewalls Gallery.

One of the upsides of the pandemic is that so many emerging artists have new platforms to exhibit their work. Whitewalls gallery is one such space that gives opportunities to both emerging and established artists. Arianna Bongato is a young artist born in 1998, who graduated Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Arts, majoring in Sculpture. This is her first solo exhibition in the Philippines. Her works explore references to both Classical and Baroque styles of painting, as well as the influence of De Stijl, a post-World War I movement that explored the abstract use of geometric shapes, especially rectangles in black and white. In the same spirit, these contemporary works challenge ideas of traditions in our visual culture. 

Opened November 5, 2022. Plan your visit to Whitewalls gallery, Warehouse 12A, La Fuerza Plaza, 2241 Chino Roces Ave. Makati at https://whitewallsgallery.art 

6. Alexander Xian Lim, ‘Promises of Tomorrow’ at Pinto Art Gallery

Painting by Alexander “Xian Lim”. Photo from the artist.
Painting by Alexander “Xian Lim”. Photo from the artist.

Alexander “Xian” Lim goes beyond his complex identity as an actor, director, and musician. In recent years he has expanded his practice with a new title – painter, with shows that prove a natural eye for an organic approach to structure, composition, and color. In this latest exhibit at Pinto Art Museum, Lim reflects on the search for meaning in life. He creates a series of large-scale works with images that border on the absurd. You can spot fire ants hanging out by the fire, a shark with no dentures, and other highly-textured, multicolored figures. Vibrant and funky worlds emerge in his paintings, as they commune with the viewers in ‘Promises of Tomorrow’.

Opened November 13. Plan your visit to Pintô Art Museum, 1 Sierra Madre St. Grand Heights Rd, Antipolo, Rizal at https://www.pintoart.org/museum

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