On the surface, Jose Tence Ruiz seems the most unlikely of guys to do a show on National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. Although the 53-year-old multimedia artist studied art at a time when schools taught the Amorsolo template, Tence Ruiz, aka Bogie, cut his artistic teeth in the 70s, the decade of protests and revolutionary art. His exaggerated, oftentimes grotesque, figures set in an explosion of junk or mired in muck, give harsh depictions of the underside of life in Manila. He also did time as an editorial cartoonist, politics and governance serving sustenance to his art. To this day, Bogie remains a pillar of Social Realism, the opposite end of the spectrum from Amorsolo’s benign sunsets and fragile beauties.
Once Isa Lorenzo had convinced Bogie to visit SLab, this exhibit had metamorphosed from a one-piece show into
Bukod Tanging Pag-Ibig: A Don Fernando Register. The exhibit’s title a literal and lyrical translation of the name amor solo from Spanish to Filipino. Not just my only love but the pinnacle of all loves.
“I see Amorsolo as a loony uncle you might snicker at, but cannot ignore. He is part of my DNA”, declares Bogie. After almost thirty years, Bogie can take a step back and react to his differences with Amorsolo’s visions of reality in a relaxed, even humorous, manner. “His works haunted me, mahirap ipinta.” He labels Don Fernando a retinal genius, a cinematographer who can capture light like no other. In this suite of twelve works, he dexterously puts together Don Fernando’s iconic images with his own signature tongue-in-cheek devices, bringing Amorsolo into the world of 21st century Philippines.
In three oil on canvas pieces, Mga Dalagang Bukid , Dalagang Bukid 1, and Prinsesang Bukid, he integrates Don Fernando’s most famous ladies with today’s realities: of bukids and rice fields transformed into golf courses and low-cost housing projects. The graceful damsels today burn from the rays of
a sun that penetrate a thinning ozone layer as they find employment as caddies, their parasols converted into golf umbrellas. In Takipsilim: Dinadaga and Monumento sa Dalagang Bukid, Bogie takes Amorsolo Light into the evening, rendering two of Don Fernando’s most recognizable scenes under a cover of darkness, as if viewing with night vision goggles the images of a Manila ruined by war and a nipa hut on the edge of farmlands.
Bogie will not be Bogie without his social commentary. He conveys the common tao’s daily plight of never ending queues: for passports, for visas, for buses and jeepneys, even to get into variety shows like Wowowee. The title Pila Baldessari is taken from both American conceptual artist John Baldessari’s wont to conceal his subject’s faces with colored shapes, and also from the colloquial term pilang balde. For that dose of relevance, Bogie uses forms that mimic Bayani Fernando’s MMDA Art as face covers.
The pieces, though, that have Bogie’s hallmark through and through are the work on canvas of an oil rig that blights Manila Bay’s famous sunset, amusingly entitled Oil/Painting, and the show’s two sculptures, Paraisado Florida de Don Romantico and Ube. The kariton as both cathedral and conveyance has been used by Bogie before. This time he amorsolo-fies this, covering the wooden piece under layers of silk flowers set in resin, beautifying an otherwise bleak structure.
Ube, a free-standing piece made of resin, pays tribute to the deliciousness
of Don Fernando’s nudes, rosy-complexioned creatures, delectable as ice cream. He turns once again to the MMDA for inspiration, coming up with the dull violet shade by combining the bright pink and blue strewn by the MMDA all over the metropolis.
Jose Tence Ruiz finds that responding to Fernando Amorsolo’s body of work does not detract from the understanding of his own. Just as it is with that loony uncle that hovers in the sidelines of family gatherings, in the end, he discovers that they can sit down and grab a beer together. And it sure tastes good.
Bukod Tanging Pag-ibig: A Don Fernando Register is on exhibit from February 18 to March 21, 2009 at Slab, 2f YMC Building 2, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City, Phone 816-0044. There will also be two artist talks by Jose Tence Ruiz on March 7 and 21, 2009 from 3 to 5 pm. Visit www.slab.silverlensphoto.com.