Note: A portion of any sales of artwork from Filophile will be donated to Typhoon Ondoy relief efforts in the Philippines. If you’d like to help please contact: http://www.cdrc-phil.org/ or www.rockedphilippines.org
JAUS is very pleased to present Filophile, an exhibition featuring the work of 6 Filipino artists from Southern California. As an artist and curator of non-American descent, I sometimes approach group exhibitions based on nationality or ethnicity with a little skepticism generated by my own resistance towards an artist and her/his work being reduced solely to national or regional origin, or being perceived as such. However, I also recognize the influence and significance such exhibitions can have in exposing the public to the cultural production of a region, nationality or specific cross section of the artistic community at large. It is with this small measure of ambivalence combined with a great deal of enthusiasm that I have selected the work by the current group of artists.
The initial motivations behind this second exhibition at JAUS were simple. As I considered the artists I have been in contact with, I recognized that some of the most interesting and promising works were being produced by Filipinos or Americans of Filipino descent.
Painter Christine Morla and sculptor Chris Sicat, artists whom I have known for nearly a decade, have been making recently what I consider the best work of their careers. Morla (CGU MFA/LMU BFA) continues to adopt the weaving techniques taught to her from her father, but now creates all over abstractions that recall blizzard-like fractal landscapes using paper and candy wrappers. Sicat (New York Academy of Arts MFA/Otis Parsons BFA) has recently begun exhibiting sculpture which consists of trunks, branches and planks of wood that are completely covered in graphite, functioning simultaneously as drawings on wood. He humorously dubs these objects, “Tag-a-logs”.
I have been following the work of Charmaine Felix-Meyer for the last few years, although I have not had the opportunity to work with her until now. Felix-Meyer (Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA/SFAI BFA) examines identity through a process of negation and de-negation using drywall as materia prima. In what will be her first exhibition in Los Angeles she will present a room construction that blurs the line between drawing and sculpture, pictorial space and dimensional space.
Aaron Dadacay is a former student at Oxnard College who is now attending the BFA program at UCLA, and W. Don Flores is a current student at the Santa Monica College Art Mentor Program. The two have been among my most auspicious pupils whose efforts I am certain will be further recognized in years to come. Dadacay’s, work which often explores the body in relation to human trafficking, ranges from painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. The piece on display consists of wood crates sitting on a shipping palette which emit the audio of a conversation among children, providing a poignant and uncanny experience for the unsuspecting visitor. W. Don Flores (Ataneo de Manila University, B.S. in Psychology) manipulates images found on Google Earth, and paints abstracted mental maps which collide personal history, memory and geography in the global era. Flores equally draws from anime, digital weather maps, and packaging material as a source of formal and thematic inspiration.
I have been introduced to Gina Osterloh (UCI MFA/De Paul University BA) more recently, and her multifaceted constructed photography seemed the perfect fit for my vision for this exhibition. In her images replete with cut pieces of colored paper and a lone figure, Osterloh uses the idea of camouflage to convey the disintegration, or perhaps integration of the body into its environment.
I do not wish to pretend that these artists are in constant dialog with one another or that they are somehow influenced by each others’ work. They are not. Whether the fact that they have come to my attention was caused by some historical and contextual imperative, my own personal biases, or just plain luck, I will not venture to hypothesize. Nevertheless, this exhibition is meant to examine the affects, if any, of geography (Southern California) and nationality (Filipino/Filipino American) in relation to cultural production, and moreover to deconstruct notions thereof.
It is worth noting that Filipino Americans comprise the second largest Asian American population in America next to Chinese Americans, and the United States has the largest Filipino population outside of the Philippines. Furthermore, Southern California is home to the largest number of Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the US, comprising a quarter of the entire demographic. In spite of these statistics, there exists a clear lack of representation in the local and national media of Filipinos and Filipino Americans.
In visual art of the past decade, their have been only a few major American exhibitions focusing on contemporary Filipino or Filipino American artists; some notable shows have been Galleon Trade: Bay Area Now Edition at YBCA (2008), Manila Envelope at the UC Berkley Worth Ryder Gallery (2006), The Emerging Artist as American Filipino (2006) at the Contemporary Museum Honolulu, and the traveling exhibition At Home and Abroad which (1998-199) which showed at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. None of these exhibitions was ever held in Southern California.
And although this general lack of representation is lamentable, this very scarcity of preconception and stereotype might also serve as an opportunity for a young Filipino American artist. For as much as YBA and Superflat did for Britain and Japan’s visibility on the cultural terrain, such movements can often be a mild nuisance, if not, a stifling obstacle to an emerging artist who is trying to establish him/herself as an individual. Perhaps a young Filipino American artist is freer to navigate his/her conceptual, aesthetic, social and political preoccupations without being overly burdened by historical precedent.
For the aforementioned reasons, I feel it is worth examining, albeit on a limited and personal scope, the work of these 6 artists right here and right now.
Finally, the title of the show Filophile, appropriates words such as Anglophile or Francophile, now referencing Filipinos and Filipino culture. It is a self consciously celebratory and arguably problematic title, because it appears to privilege Filipinos and their work to those of others. My overarching mission as a curator is not to promote exclusively the work produced by Filipinos, Filipino Americans or any one group of people, but the fact is, for this current exhibition I do. I named the show Filophile, because I like these artists and the work they make. For me, it’s not a problem.
* Thanks to Nakhon Premium Beer for providing beverages for the opening.
* Another special thanks to Francois Ghebaly from Chung King Project, Los Angeles who represents artist Gina Osterloh.