Sunday, April 13, 2008

Titles Matter

published in What's on & Expat 13 April 2008

It is inevitable that a viewer will construct a narrative when contemplating a work of art. The viewer will compare what is presented to their reference base that the works’ title evokes for them. Even as the work of art moves towards abstraction, away from any references other than to itself and/or its process, the viewer will connect any dots the artist has left lying about. When provided, the title is pre-eminent and often the excellence of an art work comes to the fore when its references not only validate but expand the viewer’s initial references.

Two exhibitions that explore this aspect of making abstract art are currently on show in Metro Manila; “Nuestro” at the White Cube Gallery in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and “Sound” at the ARIAS Artspace. Both exhibitions have an input from Bobby Nuestro, firstly as the artist in the self titled “Nuestro” exhibition and as curator for the “Sound” exhibition.

Nuestro presents 15 works on canvas and paper utilizing a subdued palette that at times verges on the monochromatic. Several of the works have an unfinished aura about them, disconnected elements floating within the picture plane almost like architectural doodles with notations attached with little connection to their titles. An impression that is compounded by works like “Child Play” in which a layer of over painting pulls the disparate background elements together and “Stones” which through its composition come across as completed thoughts. Then there are the three works “Riding bicycle with the sun behind my back”, “Sheep/ shepherd wheels” and “The measure of things”. Presented in a style that contrasts with the rest of the exhibition that recalls Picasso’s later works, Nuestro’s use of line and colour provides a unified composition for these works.

Nuestro’s curated exhibition, “Sound” showcases five works by Marlon Magbanua. These works also utilize disconnected elements but through his use of colour and some well placed lines Magbanua unifies his works. “Eutopic Suburbian Dreams I, II & III” are solid works that explore aspects of the urban landscape that is both intimate and hints at Google’s satellite maps. Whilst with “Gravity” Magbanua creates a tension in which the contained references resonate without the need of outside influences.

Although titling abstract art maybe a contradiction in terms, they do provide a gateway into the artist’s conception which, if astutely applied, can enrich the viewer’s appreciation.

Both exhibitions continue until the end of the month. “Nuestro” is at the White Cube gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Roxas Boulevard near Pablo Ocampo Street. ”Sound” is at ArIAS Artspace, 3rd Floor, LRI Business Center, 210 Nicanor Garcia st, Bel-air II.

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