Considered the premier museum of Philippine modern and contemporary art, the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG) is housed at the Areté in the Ateneo de Manila University campus, along Katipunan Avenue, in Quezon City. The AAG started in 1961, when the artist and educator, Fernando Montojo Zóbel de Ayala (1924–1984), donated more than 200 artworks from his personal collection to the Ateneo de Manila.
A part of the AAG collection are prints from local and international masters. Prints are artworks that made in multiple copies, which essentially democratizes the accessibility to owning an artwork for collectors. An great intro to the AAG print collection are three lithographic plates, which were donated by the National Book Store to the AAG. These lithographic plates are the negative design placed on a smoothened limestone plate, and ink is placed on the plate to be transferred to a series of paper prints. The three lithographic plates are an Ateneo de Manila University Diploma, the cover for Catalogo del Almacen de Musica La Lira (Music Store Catalogue of Musical Lyrics), and the wrapper for Tabacalera Cigarillos San Antonio (Tabacalera, Saint Anthony Cigars). Lithography was invented by the German actor and playwright, Johann Alois Senefelder (1771-1834), in 1796.
The Western art world did not immediately take to use printmaking as a viable means of art making, until the Northern Renaissance. As mentioned before, printmaking democratized the purchase of art through multiple copies. Given single pieces of artworks, such as Bobby Chabet’s pencil on paper and collage works, the singularity of each piece makes the artworks more expensive. And for collectors who want the same piece, the bidding to be the sole owner will raise the artwork’s price. However, with multiple prints, more collectors can get to purchase the same artwork at a much lower price.
Roberto “Bobby” Rodríguez Chabet (1937-2013) is acknowledged as the father of Philippine conceptual art. Taking on his mother’s maiden name, Chabet first took his collegiate architectural studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Architecture and Fine Arts (CAFA), but his interactions with the fine arts students brought on his own experiments in the visual arts. While regularly exhibiting, Chabet first taught architecture at the UST-CAFA, but transferred to the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA) in 1970, where he would be influential in the development of several generations of artists. In 1967, Chabet became the first curator of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and help expand the collection of the institution, during his three years of service. At the CCP, Chabet would institute the Thirteen Artist Award, which would honor the achievements of outstanding young artists, by exhibiting their works at the CCP. After his stint at the CCP, Cahbet would go on to curate many significant exhibitions locally and internationally. For his body of works and influence in the art scene, Chabet was honored with the 1972 Republic Cultural Heritage Award, the 1972 Araw ng Maynila Award for the Visual Arts, and the 1998 Centennial Honor for the Arts.
The democratization of art through print started in China, at around 200 BC. Whereas the democratization of the written material started with Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (1400- 1468), and his invention of the movable type printing press in 1440. And this same multiplicity was transferred to art with the development of the etching process, in 1515. However, in the Philippines, print was not utilized by local artists, until Manuel Rodriguez Sr. introduced it to the Philippine Modern Art scene. Soon many of Rodriguez’s students were making prints and teaching printmaking. This would eventually lead to the establishment of the Philippine Association of Printmakers (PAP) in 1968.
Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr. (1912-2017) is considered the “Father of Philippine Printmaking“. Rodriguez first completed his studies at the U.P. School of Fine Arts in 1939, where he was first exposed to the art of printmaking when he attended a serigraphy workshop under Hans Adolf Heimann (1882-1955). However, Rodriguez decided to pursue other studies such as architecture at the Mapúa Institute of Technology, and architectural draftsmanship at the Central Institute of Technology Foundation. But the draw of the arts was too strong, and in 1960, so Rodriguez studies printmaking at the Pratt Graphic Center, in New York; and he took photography at the School of Modern Photography, Little Falls, New Jersey, in 1978. While in America, he worked as a trainee at the print department of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York. Upon his return to the Philippines, Rodriguez opened the Contemporary Arts Gallery for graphic artists, and he established the Philippine Association of Printmakers in 1968. He later taught at the University of Santo Tomas and the Philippine Women’s University, where he established their respective graphic arts departments.
The oldest form of printmaking is the Woodcut, which originated in China during the Han dynasty. Woodcut prints are created by carving the negative image on a flat plate of wood, then placing in on the plate to transfer the design on a paper sheet that is placed on top of the plate. Woodcut would develop in Europe around 1400. In Fernando Zobel‘s “Woman Sitting,” the designs that he cut become the colorless white, where the ink is not place on the wooden plate. In Efren Zaragoza’s “Jester,” the artist meticulously carves out the negative space from the plate, so that the ink on the plate will create the black lines on the paper. Now-a-days, artists also use linoleum plates, instead of wood, to make prints called linocut/rubbercut.
Fernando Montojo Zóbel de Ayala (1924–1984) is a Spanish-Filipino born in Manila; and he is noted as the primary patron of the Ateneo Art Gallery, since he donated his collection of artworks in 1961. Aside from the being a businessman, educator, art collector, and museum founder; Zobel de Ayala was part of the second wave of modernists, who now dominated the art scene in the 1950s. His paintings were abstracted images of Philippine scenes, often rendered in large color brushstrokes. In 1983 he was awarded the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes by King Juan Carlos of Spain, and in 2008 he received (posthumously) the Presidential Medal of Merit.
Efren Zaragoza (1940-1989) is a printmaker from the province of Albay, Bicol. Zaragoza took advertising at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), painting at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), and finally printmaking at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). At the PWU, Zaragoza studied under Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Sr. (1912-2017), the Father of Modern Filipino Printmaking. Specializing in woodcut prints, Zaragoza exhibited his works locally and internationally, including the 1968 First India Triennale, 1971 Paris Biennale and the 1976 Western Pacific Print Biennale in Australia. Zaragoza had been an active member of the Philippine Association of Printmakers (PAP) since its establishment in 1968.
The next printmaking technique developed in Europe was Intaglio printmaking, where the designs are etched or engraved into a flat metal plate, usually copper, and ink is later placed on the plate to transfer the design on to paper. Engraving developed in the 1430s as a the technique of cutting into the metal plate using a hard stylus called a bruin, while Etching is the technique of using acid to cut out the design from the plate. Whereas woodcut and rubbercut prints have their inked designs on the area that are not cut out, Intaglio prints are created from that ink that seeps into the grooves cut into the metal plate. In Fernando Zobel’s “Woman with Hat,” it can be clearly seen were the artist etched the grooved lines into the copper plate, while the whole dark areas are where he has not rubbed off all the ink on the surface of the plate.
Another technique used in Intaglio printmaking is the Mezzotint, where shades and graded tones are achieved by using a hard toothed tool, called a “rocker.” The use of the rocker creates minute dots on the surface of the plate, and the depth and with of each dot depends on how hard the artist applies force to the rocker. The mezzotint technique was developed around 1640, by the German amateur artist Ludwig von Siegen (1609-1680). In Fil Delacruz’s 2000 series called “Logger’s Haven,” the artist creates varying degrees of halftones (grey) and gradient from dark to light, to create a gloomy commentary on deforestation.
Filemon Perez de la Cruz (born 1950) is a painter and printmaker, from the province of Bulacan, and now lives in Manila. De la Cruz studied fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), where he learned the basics of printmaking under Mario Agustin Torres Parial (1944-2013). De la Cruz would pursue further studies at the Art Students’ League, in New York City, and in Paris, France. Since his student years, De la Cruz participated and won many local and international art competitions, and he would be honored for his achievements with the 1973 Benavides Award for Outstanding Achievement from the UST, the 1985 Outstanding Bulakeño in the Field of Arts for the Provincial Government of Bulacan, and the 1992 Thirteen Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines. With all his experience, De la Cruz would eventually teach printmaking at the University of the Philippines.
Another Intaglio technique is Aquatint, in which the artist applied a powdered ground of resin on the metal plate, which is resistant to acid. The areas not covered by the resin will be eaten by the acid, to create varying degrees of shades, which depend on how much ground does the artist place on the plate. Aquatint was developed around 165 by the Dutch artist, Jan Jansz van de Velde (1620-1662). In Alfred Manrique’s “Kasamang Magpahayag” (My Fellow Reporter), the artist creates an unusual and haunting portrait of a fellow newsr eporter and his child; with the shades of grey and black help differentiate the coltes of the child from the background. And in Manrique’s “Pagpanaw ni Ama” (Father’s Death), the aquatint creates shades of depth to the somber scene of loss. In Pandy Aviado’s “Evelio Javier,” the artist uses aquatint to create the shades of grey to differentiate the steps of the Antique capitol building and the Philippine flag to signify the heroism of Governor Evelio Bellaflor Javier (1942-1986), who was assassinated at the height of the 1986 Presidential Elections.
Alfredo “Al” Manrique (1949-2006) is a visual artist, activist and pioneer in Philippine digital art. Manrique first took architecture at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Architecture and Fine Arts (CAFA). However, his frequent interactions with the fine arts students and professors and his participation in the student protests against the Marcos government convinced Manrique to pursue a career in act, to express his own disillusion with the government and society. Manrique would go on to work in painting, printmaking, photography, and finally digital art, during its basic introduction in the late 1980s. Whatever medium that Manrique would employ, each piece was a powerful commentary of Philippine politics and society, and he would often lend his services to aid cause oriented non-government organizations, and even served as and system integration consultant for UNDP-PSDN (United Nations Development Programme-Philippine Sustainable Development Network). His early experimentations lead to his co-founding of the e@rt Philippines community of digital artists, and his work as the director of Cyberspace, Inc. and MISNet, as well as the digital consultant of the newspaper Manila Standard.
Virgilio “Pandy” Arguelles Aviado (born 1944) is a printmaker and painter, from Manila. Aviado first experience in art education was through his teacher Araceli Limcaco-Dans (born 1929), at the Ateneo de Manila. Aviado would continue his formal art education at the Philippine Women’s University, and apprentice in printmaking under Manuel Rodriguez Sr., while enrolled in school. Aviado would take graduate studies at the Ateneo de Manila, and then continue his studies in printmaking at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid; and he would enforce his skills by studying under under Dimitri Papagueorguiu (1928-2016), Antonio Lorenzo (1922-2009), and the brothers José Luis Sánchez-Toda (1901-1975) and Alfonso López Sánchez-Toda (1914-2002); and he participated in workshops organized by the Museo del Arte Abstrato Español, the Smithsonian Experimental Workshop in Printmaking, Grupo Quince, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Returning to the Philippines, Aviado would be active in both the local art scene, where he served as the director of the Coordinating Center for Visual Arts of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the president of the president of the Philippine Association of Printmakers (PAP), and the president of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP). Aviado would also serve as the College of Fine Arts at the Philippine Women’s University. For his body of works that have been exhibited locally and internationally, Aviado has garnered numerous awards; including the CCP’s Thirteen Artist Award in 1970, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award from the City of Manila in 1988, and the Araw ng Maynila Award for Graphic Arts in 2009.
Collagraphy is a modern development in printmaking, in which hard objects are adhered to a flat surface, and the impressions created by these objects on paper are the prints. One of the techniques of collagraphy is the Blind-print or Paper Cast, where the impression made by the hard objects are the only images required to make the print, without the use of any pigments. In the series of paper casts by the Cheung Yee, the artist uses beans, screw heads, and other found objects; to create a set of works that resemble Chinese pictographs that symbolize lust in “Eros,” Mesopotamian cuneiform writing in “Record,” the womb in “Twins,” and Chinese divination stones in “Oracle.”
Cheung Yee (born 1936) is a Chinese mixed-media artist and sculptor, who was born in Guangzhou, China, and now resides in the USA. Yee took fine arts at the Taiwan Normal University in 1958, and would migrate to Hong Kong to practice his craft. In 1963, Yee would found the Circle Group, which would eventually be influential to the local and regional art scenes. With the Circle Group’s success in Hong Kong, Yee and his companions would exhibition throughout the Asian region, as well as the Americas and Europe. These exhibits led to many interactions with Filipino artists, from 1967 to 1975. Back in Hong Kong, Yee would continue to mold the next generations of artists, by teaching at the Department of Fine Art of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Department of Design of Hong Kong Polytechnic Institute. Yee would also help found the Hong Kong Artists Guild, in 1987. For his achievements, Yee was recognized as a honorary Member Order of the British Empire, in 1979.
Collagraphy is a recent development in the history of art, and its development is attributed to the American artist, Glen Alps (1914-1996), who coined the term in 1956. Aside from Paper casts, the more common collagraphs employ pigments, to create varying degrees of tonal values. In the print “Property of God” by Bienvenido Sugay (1936-2010), the artist uses glue to create shapes that play with the symbolisms in religious iconography, while the use of the single color of black create a wide range of shades on the 3D forms. Whereas in Ray Albano’s 1968 series, the artist uses different colors to create abstract concepts in “Comeclose and Sleepnow,” “For Lin,” “In Medias Res,” and “The Core of Things to Happen.”
Raymundo Pidad Albano, aka Ray B. Bacarra (1947-1985), is an abstract painter, printmaker and conceptual artist, from Manila. Albano took his collegiate studies at the Ateneo de Manila University, taking English literature. However, his frequent interactions with Roberto Chabet (1937-2013) led to his own foray into the visual arts. In 1970, Albano started working at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), where he would design the sets, lights and posters for the Bulwagang Gantimpala theater productions. Albano would later serve as the director of the Visual Arts Department of the CCP, where he would curate and promote conceptual art in many major exhibitions. While as director, Albano would launch the bimonthly CCP art publication, the Philippine Art Supplement. As a writer, Albano wrote for several publications, and was honored with the John Mulry award for Literary Excellence by the Ateneo. As an artist, Albano was focused on the process of art making, and not the final image; which would build an eclectic body of diverse works and media, and garner him the CCP’s Thirteen Artists award, in 1970.
There are many other techniques in printmaking; which include Serigraphy, Monotyping, and Monoprinting. Modern technologies also have influenced printmaking, such as Sid Gomez Hildawa’s series in Xerograph or electrophotography. Hildawa employs the dry photocopying process to create a conceptual art series, entitled “The Xerox of Your Smile.” Here, Hildawa breaks from the multiplicity for democratization, and numerous copies of the head of the 1503 Renaissance masterpiece “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452-1519), and placing in on the body of a female portrait by either Antonio Malantic y Arzeo (1820-1885) or Justiniano Asuncion (September 26, 1816 – 1901). In each piece, Hildawa changes the background, making the whole series as a story of Philippine culture and its foreign influences.
Sid Gomez Hildawa (1962-2008) is a critically acclaimed architect, visual artist and writer, from Manila. Hildawa first took his architectural studies at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), and later ranked 4th in the national architectural l licensure examination, to become a member of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP). While studying at UP, Hildawa was constantly interacting with the fine arts students, who shared the same building with the architecture department; and these interactions led to Hildawa’s foray into visual arts. Not wanting to be limited to architecture and art, Hildawa would enroll at the De La Salle University to take his masteral studies in creative writing, and later his doctorate in literature. For his poetry and essays, Hildawa won the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards in 1997 for the play “Macho Motel”, and in 2006 for “Building a House and Other Poems,” and he also received two poetry awards from the Philippine Free Press. Hildawa was alos a poetry fellow at the 1994 University of the Philippines’ National Writers’ Workshop and the 1995 Iligan National Writers’ Workshop. As an architect, Hildawa has received many residency grants, including the 1990 British Council Fellow for Architecture and the Visual Arts in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom. As an artist, Hildawa has held many solo and group exhibitions, and has represented the Philippines in several international art events; such as the 1990 Ninth Biennale Valparaiso in Chile and the 2000 Bienal de la Habana in Cuba. As a manager in the arts, Hildawa served as a member of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), the artistic director of the Kulay-Diwa Art Galleries, the Committee Head for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ Committee on Art Galleries, and the Director of the Visual, Literary, and Media Arts Department of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). Hildawa has been a consistent achiever since his students days, garnering him the 1979 Ten Outstanding Students of Makati, the 1990 Thirteen Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the 2004 Outstanding Artist Award from the University of the Philippines.
These prints are part of the AAG’s plans to develop a Printmaking Institute, in partnership with the Ateneo Department of Fine Arts. And in this collection of prints, there are also works from European masters, starting with the Baroque period, to the early Modernist era. These European masters will be explored in the next article.