Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thrice a Decade of Decadence: Manuel Ocampo at Archivo 1984 Gallery

Wazzup Pilipinas!

The heat is on for art events this February, National Arts Month, but more specifically for contemporary art. It’s been a while now that trendy Filipino artists have been getting hair-raising attention due in part to auction results. Credit however must be given to neophyte galleries--being in business for just a little over a decade and having made their presence felt in the local if not the international art market. Swanky art buyers have definitely outgrown in number the artists who kept alternative spaces alive at the turn of the century. Add to that an assortment of home-grown art fairs and what have you in the capital is a robust art scene indeed.

If contemporary art were to be defined as the territory of the young, emergent and experimental, then it would be inappropriate to classify as such the works of Manuel Ocampo whose large canvasses of laboriously loaded symbolism abound in an exhibition at Archivo 1984 Gallery in Makati. This painter is certainly no new kid on the block and has been around for a long time, nurtured early by the ruckus of California in the late 1980s. Many in the international art scene know him by his ascent to notoriety through participation in seminal exhibitions around 1992 namely Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s, capped by the infamous exclusion of four of his canvasses at Dokumenta IX in Germany.

By 2003 Ocampo had already begun spreading his audacious subjects and maverick personality through collaborative and fun exhibitions with like-minded artists in Manila. His inclination to support his peers resulted in the curation of shows abroad representing a slice of youthful art from Manila and the opening of a gallery named the Department of Avant Garde Clichés in 2011. The art space was one among the few that provided a global reach to local audiences however short-lived. Nowadays, Ocampo is busier than ever in Europe preparing for, among other projects, his participation in the upcoming Venice Biennale in May this year.

Cooks In The Kitchen
Oil on linen
242.2 x 304.8 cm

Dolor De Muelas
Oil on canvas
243.8 x 304.8 cm

Oil on canvas
124.4 x 121.9 cm

"You Better Watch Out What You Are Saying In This Society People Are Quick To Crucify You"
Mixed media
128 x 211 cm
When the prestigious exhibition does open, it will be a welcome surprise if he will again succeed to inadvertently call attention as much as he had in his period of valiant visual critiques in the early nineties. Anyhow, upon relocating to Manila it was the painter himself who announced being tired of infusing his paintings with opportune allegory and metaphor, moving onto gestural renditions of the cute. If at all significant, his third invitation at the biennale through the Philippine Pavilion will reiterate his efforts in holding up the banner for Philippine contemporary art.

Of particular interest is the fact that not much of Ocampo’s early works have been put on auction. Safe to say that his initial collectors have been slow at getting over him yet. Though he has been locally prolific for over a decade, galleries much less our museums, have not ventured in a domestic view of his early works. If your limit for the blasphemous (described once by Alice Guillermo) and the unserious is high, if you just care to see what the commotion around this badass artist was about way back when, then rush to see this exhibit to see what the artist just got bored of doing (while doing something else).

MANUEL OCAMPO Early works: 1985-1995 will be open to the public at Archivo 1984 Gallery, 2135 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City from February 13 till end of March 2017.

Manuel Ocampo (b. 1965) studied fine arts at the University of the Philippines before moving to Los Angeles to study at California State University. Ocampo has exhibited extensively throughout the 1990’s with solo exhibitions at galleries and institutions through Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Manuel Ocampo's compositions juxtapose leitmotifs from established western iconography, religious symbolism, Filipino kitsch, and even art history. His imagery is deeply rooted in its symbolic and satirical nature.

Doors open at 5PM on Monday, February 13 at the Archivo 1984 Gallery.

We are located at Level 2, Warehouse 1, #2135 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City, Philippines.

Exhibit runs until March 30, 2017.

“One person's blasphemy could be another person's form of spiritual expression. Blasphemy comes close to the idea of a protest. If a work offends someone else's taste and values then perhaps the work has already succeeded in staking a claim of its meaning in the world, as a statement of existence. That type of work therefore has ceded from being a mere representation of life, and has broached reality as an event. Perhaps blasphemy is the cry of the real, when stripped bare of its many illusions. Nothing is more shocking than the real.”
-Manuel Ocampo, Art Asia Archive's Interview with Manuel Ocampo

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