You would think that after last week’s rush of gallery openings, which include THE twin blockbuster events (Art Fair Philippines, and the Mark Higgins show at Ayala Museum, in case you live under a really big rock), everyone would be so art’ed out. Apparently not. A good crowd turned out last February 29 for the opening of West Gallery’s four-man exhibition featuring the works of Kawayan de Guia, Kaloy Sanchez, Idan Cruz and Tatong Torres (Tatong's new works, however, did not make it to the opening evening).
Located on a nondescript side street in Quezon City, West Gallery feels more like your friendly neighborhood art space where you can turn up for opening night in your casual shorts and tees, with your beloved art-loving pooches in tow (yes, Lena Cobangbang, we’re winking at you). Artist Romeo Lee agrees, whispering it feels less snobbish than other gallery openings—“na may sariling crowd pero baduy naman; feeling lang mataas ang taste [nila] sa art.”
Part of the welcoming vibe emanates from the generous buffet because, in case you didn’t know, “pag walang food sa opening, it’s not Pinoy,” according to Ling Quisimbing Ramilo. West’s unli-spread is as Pinoy as it gets: pancit Malabon served straight from a bilao, pork barbecue, lumpiang shanghai, along with bowl after bowl of the holy trinity of pulutans (chicharon, cornic, garlic peanuts) to be washed down with beer or wine, if you please.
The gallery isn’t that big, but the space is well-managed, with benches facing the different exhibition areas from where you can view art, paper plate of Pinoy chow in one hand, drink of choice in the other. The show is pretty good, you will realize; it gets better when you bravely ask for the price list.
Kaloy Sanchez’s smaller acrylic and graphite works on paper measuring 16 ½ x 13 ½ inches (including frame) go for an accessible P25,000 each. Idan Cruz’s unframed photos start at P1,000 and peak at P8,000, while his photoboxes range from P20,000 up to P30,000. Idan, or John Lloyd to those unaware of the actor’s side/new hustle, took the photos around two years ago. It was a time that—to use his own words during an afternoon chat at Ling’s house—“gulong-gulo ang isip ko.”
“Do we call him John Void now?”
Idan’s show, entitled Void, displays images that show mostly “nothing.” Idan framed the emptiness of vast expanses of gray, what appear as night skies broken by flickers of light, saturnine textures, vacant public spaces. Figures emerge tentatively, like in the case of a photo that captured two blurry forms, and another image with a human head silhouetted against blinding light.
At certain times during the opening, Idan would turn off the lights inside the room where his works are on show, to deepen the sombre mood of what seems to be a heartfelt elegy to solitude
He does have the gift for storytelling, strikingly evident at a previous show that opened last December. The series of photos depict the homeless curled and blanketed against the cold, asleep on Roxas Boulevard’s famed seawall. An insistent expanse of blue separates them from the gleaming white boat in the horizon, indifferent to the realities that waited by the shore.
In the December show, a concrete pipe accompanied the images, installed outside of the gallery, two floors below so that its visible to BGC’s mall traffic. Its location heightened the sense of displacement amidst the newly-built privilege of its surrounds. To Idan, a viewer can conjure his own narrative, or draw emotions from his work. For him, however, “it’s really all about the image.”
F#@k You City
Kawayan de Guia’s philosophical musings (Spitting Haikus, mixed media on paper, 8 x 5 ¾) can be had for, brace yourselves, just P2,500. The works are a continuation of a series that he started two years ago, which he describes as “almost like a playful thought-of-the-day sort of thing.”
He adds: “It’s also because I chew the betel nut, of course. It’s my way of spitting out my frustrations on the world going sour—age of Trump, Duterte, right wing fundamentalists.” He is explaining this from “the desert” in UAE where the artist is installing for the Sharhaj Biennial.
If you can afford it, you can buy Kawayan’s fury (Fuck You City, Philippines, P125,000). The form looks familiar, because it is. “It’s based on a kitsch Baguio souvenir, the hand ashtray,” Kawayan says, “which I just reconfigured.” The artist used rusting found metal objects, and extended the middle finger to convey his frustration about his beloved city. “Baguio has changed so much and it seems to me that the cities are the main proponents of pollution and corruption in the country.”
You can also take home the artist’s leftfield sentiments, How the West Was…. but alas it was sold on opening night. The title refers to a famous John Wayne flick, How the West Was Won, and alludes to “the trash, fast food, fast life, instant satisfaction that the West has imposed on the world.”
Click on the image below for slideshow
Idan Cruz with Rene Navas and Father Manny Leyran.
Migs Camacho, Ellen Adarna, Pow Martinez, Romeo Lee, Don Papa Art Contest 2019 winner Sam Penaso, and Tiffany La Fuente.
Idan with (from left) Angelyn Marquez, Annie Denise Pacan, Justin Guiab, Erick Encinares and Gian Ventura.
Jonathan Ching with a guest standing in front of Tatong Torres’ old works.
Mawen Ong, Steph Frondoso, Ling Quisimbing Ramilo and Bogey Tence Ruiz.
Nona Garcia with MM Yu
Poklong Anading, Gayle Vicente (partly hidden), and Alfredo Aquilizan
Dex Fernandez, Jessica Bellemer, Pow Martinez, and Miguel Aquilizan
Gerry Tan with Eva McGovern and a guest in front of Torres’s works.
Ling Quisimbing Ramilo.
Robert Langenegger (center) with Valentine Willie (rightmost).
Robert Langenegger, with Idan's brother (in white) and loyal friend Pip (rightmost).
Karl Gustav (center) with Art Tavera (extreme right) and friends.
Gallerist Valentine Willie, Romeo Lee, Raffy Napay (behind Romeo), Shirin Bandari, Ryan Jara, Andy Mark Garcia and Lala Reyes.
Artinformal’s Tina Fernandez with George Chu
Boots Herrera, Veronica Paralejo and Lena Cobangbang with one of two art-lover pets she brought to the opening night.
These are the reasons why people keep going back to West Gallery: a friendly space where you can allow strong, beautiful works to crack your sheltered dome wide open, and awaken your senses to what it really means to be alive.