In her essay, The Hint of Transition, curator Joselina Cruz writes “Norberto Roldan is first, and foremost, a collector. A collector of objects and paraphernalia, of images and imagery, of symbols and text.” The essay had been penned for the catalogue of The beauty of history is that it does not reside in one place, “Peewee” Roldan’s solo exhibit at Art Stage Singapore. He mounted the show for Taksu, the gallery that represents him in Singapore and Malaysia.
The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) acquired one of the pieces in the art fair. Invisibilitus Est. 1 now hangs in SAM as part of Negotiating Home, History and Nation: Two Decades of Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia, 1991-2010 to complement the offerings of the Singapore Biennale.
It was through SAM that I first encountered Peewee’s work. They exhibited Faith In Sorcery, Sorcery In Faith (1+2), a diptych from 1998 that had already been part of their collection, at the Ayala Museum in 2004 or 2005. I can’t remember exactly when, but I’ve been fascinated ever since. The beginning of history, which opens this week at Green Papaya Art Projects, does not do anything to diminish that. If at all, it makes me appreciate his work even more.
The pull of Peewee’s work lies in the manner in which he changes the context of his found and collected objects, especially those articles with a religious bent. Within his boxed constructions, he has precisely arranged curios and gewgaws, vintage toys, old photographs, used bottles, all sorts of seemingly random items, to interact with priestly vestments, metal amulets, saintly figures, estampitas. I find that I can identify with his absorption for folk Catholic kitsch and how it so easily combines with the everyday. I can relate to his social commentary. There is nothing absurd in the juxtaposition of an old
Roman chasuble, anting-anting, and bottles of Ginebra San Miguel that we see in Invisibilitus Est. 3. The repetitive array of elements for The Beginning of History and The Agony of Power, a large-scale diptych, gives this piece a hypnotic rhythm. Neon tabletop figurines of the Blessed Virgin and the Sto. Niño share the same space as glass and chrome medicine bottles, old photos, and magazine clippings.
The series of small assemblages, wooden frames lined with used printed wallpaper or vintage fabric against which Peewee has organized more mundane objects, encapsulate the exhibit’s title best. Here trinkets and whatnots laden with previous histories have been put together to create new stories. Peewee has put them on the road to acquiring and absorbing fresh destinies.
The Beginning of History Norberto Roldan New Constructions runs from 27 April to 20 May 2011 at Green Papaya Art Projects, 41B T. Gener cor. Kamuning Road, Quezon City. For more information visit http://www.greenpapayaartprojects.org