The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) boasts an impressive collection of Philippine modern and contemporary art, which is house in the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG). The AAG is located inside the ADMU’s newest building, the Areté, which is clearly visible from Katipunan Avenue, in Quezon City.
Modernism in Philippine art may have been introduced through painting by Victorio C. Edades (1895-1985) in 1928, but it would take more than two decades before it would gain full acceptance by critics and collectors. During the two decades of struggling for the acceptance of modern art, Edades was joined by other painters such as Diosdado Magno Lorenzo (1906-1984), Demetrio Diego (1909-1988), Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981), Bonifacio Nicolas Cristobal (1911-1977), Ricarte Madamba Purugganan (1912-1998), Hernando Ruiz Ocampo (1911-1978), Galo B. Ocampo (1913-1985), Anita Corpus Magsaysay-Ho (1914-2012), Arsenio Roxas Capili (1914-1945), Carlos “Botong” Villaluz Francisco (1914-1969), José Sabado Pardo (1916-2002), Cesar Torrente Legaspi (1917-1994); who were called the Thirteen Moderns. However, modernist sculpture had no representation, as it was still dominated the classicist styles of Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976) and his students. It was only in the 1950s did Napoleon Abueva break the cycle and usher in Philippine modernist sculpture.
Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018) studied at the U.P. School of Fine Arts, under National Artist, Guillermo Estrella Tolentino (1890-1976), who was then the director of the school. Although trained in the classical style of sculpting, Abueva broke from its mold and began experimenting on modernist styles and techniques. Soon he became known as and Godfather of Philippine Modern Sculpture. Aside from the many historical monuments that are found all over the Philippines, Abueva has also been commissioned to create sculptures around the world. In his youth, he was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award; which would herald more awards and distinctions in his life. He was proclaimed National Artist for Sculpture in 1976, making him the youngest recipient of this distinction. And just like his mentor, Abueva also served as dean of the U.P. College of Fine Arts.
Abueva would go on to influence artists to explore modernist styles; with both is works, and his teaching at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) School of Fine Arts. Most of the early modernist sculptures were focused on created abstracted or simplified images of recognizable forms. This can be clearly seen in Abueva’s “Crucifix” and “Judas’ Kiss,” as well as Arturo Luz’s “Kristo.” These pieces were reactions to the naturalism of classical sculpture, and the ornate details of religious iconography. However, as time would pass, sculptors would experiment in pure abstract works, such as Luz’s “Homage to Fernando Zobel,” which is the artist salute to fellow abstract painter Fernando Montojo Zóbel de Ayala (1924–1984).
Arturo Rogerio Dimayuga J. Luz (born 1926) was born in Manila; and he was a Neo Realist, whose abstracted works gave a play to everyday objects and scenes. His Luz Gallery has helped launch the next generations of artists. Arturo has held many important positions in the world of art, such as president of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) in 1952, executive director of the Design Center of the Philippines (1973-1987), director, Metropolitan Museum of Manila (1976-1986), and director of Museum of Philippine Art (1977-1985). Luz represented the Philippines in various exhibitions abroad, including the Arte de America y España in Europe in 1963, Sao Paolo Biennale in 1974, the Tokyo International Print Biennale in 1974, and the eighth British International Print Biennale in 1984. Aside from local and international exhibitions, Arturo also received accolades such as the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Painting (1966), the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award for Painting (1980), the Order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government (1978), the Gawad CCP para sa Sining (1989), and the National Artist for Visual Art in 1997.
Another concern of some early modernist sculpture was the use of indigenous materials, such as the native hardwoods of narra (Pterocarpus indicus) and molave (Vitex parviflora). Still using traditional techniques of carving, artists would sculpt these woods, creating forms while following the grain of the wood, such as Renato Rocha’s subtle hint of a man and his pregnant wife in the piece entitled “Family,” or the interlocking forms in “Community” that play at the concept of odd shaped found in shanty towns. Ros Arcilla also follows the natural lines of the wood in his portrayal of the Blessed Virgin Mary hugging the lifeless body of Jesus, in his “Pieta,” while Ben-Hur Villanueva’s untitled piece plays with the balance of two pieces of carved wood.
Renato A.Rocha (1937-2001) is a modernist sculptor who apprenticed under Napoleon Abueva and Anastacio T. Caedo in the late 1950s to early 1960s, as he would later become a multi-awarded artist in his own right. Rocha selected to be part of the delegation to represent the Philippines in 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and the 1964 New York World’s Fair. In 1980 he was honored the Araw ng Maynila Award in Sculpture.
Rosalio “Ros” Beltran Arcilla Jr. (1938-2006) is a sculptor or modernist and classical styles, who originally hailed from Caramuan, Camarines Sur. Arcilla took his formal art studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), and pursued further studies at the University of Hawaii and the Ecole de Beaux Arts, in Paris. Upon his return, Arcilla taught sculpture at the University of the East. His gallery works featured a minimalist cubist style, where as his monuments were dynamic pieces of classical sculpture. Arcilla was chosen to represent the Philippines in the International Art Exhibition in Osaka, Japan in 1967 and at the Paris-Sud Biennale in 1973.
Ben-Hur Gorospe Villanueva (born 1938) is a sculptor from Baguio City. Before going full time into his art, Villanueva taught at the Ateneo de Manila Grade School for 30 years, before retiring in 1992. Villanueva was also president for the Society of Philippine Sculptors (SPS), the Art Director for the Ephpheta Foundation for the Blind, Inc., and vice president-treasurer for Unesco’s International Art Association (IAA). After retiring from teaching, Villanueva returned to Baguio, where he opened his arts workshop, Arko Ni Apo (Ark of the Lord), which serves to teach local communities various art skills.
Aside from hard woods, sculptors would also experiment with local geological materials. Breaking away from the traditional white marble, Renato Rocha’s neo-cubist “Abstraction in Red Marble” uses red marble from the Visayas region, in his study of abstract shapes. Working with the softer but rougher adobe sandstone, Abdulmari Imao blends the forms of a Carabao, and pig and a snake in his “Animal Monument.”
Abdulmari Asia Imao (1936-2014) was born in the island of Jolo, and proceeded to Manila, where he earned a degree in fine arts from the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1959. Imao later took a master of fine arts degree from the University of Kansas in 1962, and took further studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University in New York City. Imao’s sculptures and paintings draw inspiration from the Tausug and Maranao people’s cultures, of which he is a part of. Imao received the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award in 1968, the Gawad CCP para sa Sining from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1990, and the was honored as the 1st Moslem National Artist in 2006.
Other artists would push their chosen medium outside the conventions of art making. And in case of metals, which were traditionally melted down and cast into molds, modern artists would cut, hammer rivet and weld pieces of metal to create new images. In Ed Castrillo’s “Seated Nude,” the artist uses sheets of brass, which he cuts, welds and polishes to create the allusion to a woman reclined with her crossed legs up in the air. In Conrado Mercado’s “Door,” the artist hammers aluminum sheets to create patterns that are set to a pre-fabricated aluminum door with handles and iron bars, which in turn is mounted on a figures of Martial Law political detainees that are made of cut, hammered and welded brass sheets. Ildefonso Marcelo’s “Construction” is made out of welded discarded steel to create structure that resembles an abandoned building.
Eduardo De Los Santos Castrillo (1942-2016) is a noted sculptor, who had defined the second wave of modernist sculpture in the Philippines. Castrillo graduated from the UST Fine Arts program, and first started at first as an illustrator for publishing before embarking into a career in public sculpture. In the course of time, Castrillo has represented the Philippines in many exhibitions abroad, and has also been commissioned to create monuments all over the country and overseas. He received the TOYM Award for sculpture (Ten Outstanding Young Men) in 1970, the 13 Artists Award by the CCP in 1970, Outstanding Makati Resident in 1971, Outstanding Sta. Ana Resident in 1974, Outstanding Son of Binan Award in 1980 from the Maduro Club, Outstanding Son of Laguna Award in 1980 from the Laguna Lion’s Club, Adopted Son of Cebu in 1996, the Far Eastern University Green and Gold Artist Award in 1998, and the Most Outstanding Citizen Award of Quezon City.
Conrado Camacho Mercado (1945-2010) is a modernist painter and metal sculptor, form the town of Bustos, in the province of Bulacan. Showing a knack for art in a very young age, Mercado would pursue his formal art lessons at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and would first work in advertising soon after graduation. First painting and sculpting on the side, Mercado would eventually leave the advertising business all together, to purse a fulltime career in the arts. Actively engaging in the Philippine art community, Mercado would become the founding president of the Figure Artists of the Philippines, and help revive and serves as president of the Society of Philippine Sculptors. Mercado would go on to represent the Philippines in several international exhibitions, such as the 1971 Second India Triennale and the 1973 XIV Salon International Paris- Sud. For all his achievements, Mercado was honored with the 1990 Outstanding Thomasian Award by the UST, and the 1991 Patnubay ng Sining Award by the city of Manila. Mercado was also active in promoting the arts in his home town, and now has a permanent sculpture garden in Bustos, which has become a local tourist attraction.
Ildefonso Cruz Marcelo (1941-unknown) is a modernist sculptor from the province of Bulacan. Marcelo studied sculpture at the University of the Philippines in 1962, and later took further studies at the University of Hawaii and Pratt Institute, New York. Marcelo has created many works during the 1960s, and won several honors such as the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1961, and the Hiyas ng Bulacan Award in 1981. However, there is very little known about his works after the mid-1960s.
As time passed, Philippine sculptors broke off the confines of working with a single medium, and began to experiment with combining different materials for their works. In Edgar Doctor’s “Torso,” the artist creates a homage to the female body with a carved wooden body that is accentuated by welded iron bars and other discarded metal pieces. In Jerry Navarro’s “Grand Prix,” the artist hammers a steel plate to form a helmet for a wood base with a glued car part, to give homage to the then recently departed Arsenio “Dodjie” Laurel (1931-1967), the first two-time winner of the Macau Grand Prix (1962 and 1963). And finally Bert Hechanova hammers and stains aluminum sheets and mounts then on glass to make tongue-in-cheek representations of the male and female sexual organs, in his piece “Man and Woman.”
Edgar Doctor (born 1941) is a Bicolano impressionist landscape painter and abstract sculptor. Although Doctor’s paintings and sculpture may seem vastly opposed from each other, he sees them as complimentary in the sense of using simplified forms to convey a greater idea. Doctor took his formal art studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and worked in various commercial design enterprises before focusing on his painting career. One of Doctor’s more notable commercial works was as a diorama artist and illustrator for the National Historical Commission. In the 1990s, Doctor migrated to New York City, where he continues to practice his craft and exhibiting in the USA and Philippines.
Jeremias “Jerry” Elizalde Navarro (1924-1999) is a painter and sculptor, who graduated from the University of Santos Tomas (UST) and Art Students League in New York. Navarro first worked as a commercial illustrator, and also taught at the UST and Randwick University in Sydney, Australia. Navarro’s paintings in expressive colorful palettes and mask sculptures allowed him to represent the Philippines in Brazil at the Sao Paolo Biennal in 1969 and 1971. Navarro has also represented the country in other international events, such as the Biennale de art Graphiques, Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1972; the 12th Tokyo International Trade Fair Japan in 1977; and the YAYASAN Bali, Indonesia in 1980. Shortly after his death, Navarro was conferred the honor of National Artist in 1999.
Lamberto “Bert” Hechanova, Jr. (1939-2014) is a multi-awarded mixed media art and sculptor, who originally hails from the province of Negros Occidental, and retired in New York City, USA. Showing an artistic flair at a very young age, Hechanova was very active in creating floats, set designs, signages and posters during his community and high school in Iloilo province. After high school, Hechanova decided to pursue his formal art studies in Manila, and enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). After graduating, Hechanova would work in advertising and quickly rise to Visual Creative Director, and garner the Advertising Award of Distinctive Merit from the Art Director’s Club of the Philippines, in 1958. Afterwards, Hechanova would also work as an art director for a Hong Kong advertising agency. However, Hechanova would eventually return to the Philippines to pursue further Graphic Arts and Printmaking at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), where he would also serve as one of its instructors, while taking a research grant in sculpture. While teaching at PWU, Hechanova would join several national art competitions and winning the 1966 7th Annual Religious Art Competition, and the the 1968 First National Sculpture Competition. These awards allowed Hechanova to travel abroad and represent the Philippines in various exhibitions, including the 1969 6th Paris Biennale Art Expo in France. Afterwards, Hechanova would migrate to the USA, and work as an advertising art director in Baltimore; where he would continue to earn more awards in art, such as the 1971 Award of Excellence in Painting and the 1972 Governor’s Award in Painting in the Baltimore Museum of Art Annual Art Exhibition and Competition. Moving to New York City, Hechanova would focus fulltime in art making, where he would also reap numerous awards; such as the 1981 ARTISTS USA National Art Competition, and the 1993 State Governor’s Award for “The Most Outstanding Asian American in Art.” A 1989 accident left Hechanova paralyzed from the waist down, but that didn’t stop him for making art and earning more recognition, including a “Honored Senior Artist” by the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
Some artists found that the use of wood, metal and stone still part of the traditional materials used in sculpture, even is the images and some techniques used vary greatly from classical sculpture. The artists would focus on specific materials that were never or rarely used in art making, and master these new media. In the case of Julie Lluch, she would work on terracotta, where she would mold natural clay and fire the pieces in a kiln at around 1000⁰ Celsius, such as her haunting “A House on Fire.” As for Impy Pilapil, the artist would work with cut and melted glass, and utilize the reflective nature of glass to play with light, such as her work “Ocean.”
Julie Lluch (born 1946) was born in Iligan; and she has been a stalwart in feminist artist since the 1970s. First known for her life-size terracotta sculptures of herself, representing various issues and statements on a Filipina’s life, Julie has then moved on to experiments in film, as well as public sculpture made of bronze. Art in the art scene, Lluch co-founded the women artists’ groups KALAYAAN (Katipunan ng Kababaihan para sa Kalayaan) and KASIBULAN (Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan or Women in Art and Emerging Consciousness). She married fellow artist, Danny Dalena; and they had three daughters, whom they call the Tres Marias (three Marias), who have all become noted artists in their own right. In 1990, she was recognized with the Thirteen Artist Award.
Imelda “Impy” Manalaysay Pilapil (1949) took her artistic studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts in 1968, and continued further studies at the Academia Italiana in Rome and at the Pratt Graphic Institute in New York. A versatile artist, Pilapil has done printmaking, but is more known for her sculpture in glass and mixed media; winning many competitions in both disciplines. Among her major recognitions, Pilapil was given the Thirteen Artists Aware by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (1976), the 100 Outstanding Women of the Philippines (2002), and the Outstanding Citizen Award of Cavite (2004).
By the late 1960s, artists would also express their social consciousness through sculpture, while continuing to experiment is various materials. In the case of Bobby Feleo, the artist created a series of sculptures that are reminisce of the saints on display in the glass Vitrina, such as his painted sawdust “Ang Pinteng ni Pedro Mateo,” which is a symbolist homage to the 1807 Basi Revolt leader, Pedro Mateo. As Egai Fernandez’s “Kinupot” (confined), the artist stretched a piece of canvas over a wooden armature, to create the illusion of a person trying to break free from bondage.
Roberto Bulatao Feleo (born 1954) is a painter and mixed media artist, whose sculptural works are play on iconography as symbolical commentaries on Philippine society. Feleo first took his formal art studies at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU), and then he would continue his advanced lessons at the University of the Philippines (U.P) and Virginia Center for Creative Art, USA. Feleo doesn’t regularly participate in local and international exhibitions, as he teaches at the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA) and at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Mount Makiling, Laguna. Despite his limited exhibition, the critical acclaim for his works led to the 1988 Thirteen Artists Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Feleo has also worked in book illustration, and was the chief designer of Comite de Festejos.
Edgar “Egai” Talusan Fernandez (born 1955) is a renowned social realist, who made his mark during the Marcos’ regime’s Martial Law era. A graduate of the PhilippinesWomen’s University College of Music and Fine Arts, Fernandez started actively painting in 1974, and slowly developed his classically rendered images in juxtaposed layers of scenes in the background montage and Filipiñana symbols, which include the ancient script called the Baybayin. Frenandez’ activism has led to his co-founding the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), and joining other cause-oriented groups such as Center for the Advancement of Young Artists and “Kaisahan“. Aside from participating in activist organizations, Fernandez has be an active member and officer of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), the Christian Art Society of the Philippines, AGOS KULAY (a watercolorist group), and the National Committee on Visual Art of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA). For all his work, Fernandez was awarded the 13 Artists Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and the Araw ng Maynila Award for Painting in 2006.
From modernist to contemporary sculpture, artists have been pushing the boundaries of their medium and imagery, often times expanding outside the conventional descriptions of “sculpture.” In the previous article, installation art is one expansion of sculpture; whereas in the next article the application of art to utility objects will be explored in the Ceramic Art collection of the Ateneo Art Gallery.