Friday, June 2, 2017

Of Reversals and Revisitings

Wazzup Pilipinas!

(Exhibit Text for Gerardo Tan's show at Archivo 1984 Gallery, "Recto/Verso: New Collages and Paintings")

ARCHIVO 1984 Gallery is proud to present RECTO/VERSO: New Collages and Paintings by Gerardo Tan opening on Friday, June 2, 2017 at Archivo 1984 Gallery.

Visual artist Gerardo Tan extends his continuing exploration of collage-based paintings in this solo exhibition of recent works. Comprised of small collages on paper and their translations into larger canvases, the works dwells on the reflexive materiality of things: transforming archival fragments into art objects and, conversely, repositioning art objects as itinerant archives.

The terms “Recto/Verso” denote the front (recto) and the reverse or underside (verso) of bound materials and art objects identified for conservation treatment. The tension between the two words lies in the dual relationship of forward and backward orientation. Implied in this are constantly shifting states of appearance and concealment: one can not view a side without moving away from the other, making the act and position of viewing a single object always a multifaceted process.

The entire series begins with the collages, which were constructed using materials such as pages from art books, texts, and posters. Tan makes extensive use of billboards and posters plastered across various public spaces in Berlin. Like collages, the city’s walls are weighed with this history of overlapping images and fragmented signs, fused into a singular mass through time and chance.

Peeling off entire sections and strips of billboards layered over the other during several encounters, Tan reconfigures these as new collages inside his studio. He proceeds to make large paintings based on selected collages from this collection, rendering their surfaces, texts, and shapes into larger painterly expressions.

Both the paintings and collages, literally, make visible their recto and verso: predominantly portraying the front sides of the works but also including several pieces showing the reverse end. These are carefully composed throughout the gallery space to help convey to the viewer that the work in front of them always conceals its other side: the revelation always hiding one aspect from view.

What is perhaps distinct in Tan’s collage-based paintings is how he emphasizes the materiality, reproduction and representation of images throughout the process of making the works. This process of transfer from collage to painting is not to be mistaken for a copyist’s mechanical gesture: in fact, the paintings assume a separate and distinct presence of their own as objects. In distinct contrast to his collages which are characterized by glossy finishes and sharply defined typography and images, the same forms rendered in painting are more organic shapes and textures distinctly shaped by the artist’s hand. The digital and mechanical reproduction of images made possible by modernity—implied in his found materials of billboards, books and posters—is subsumed and eventually re-encountered as handmade and almost gestural energy through painting.

He also quietly acknowledges the vitality of collaborative work in the act of repurposing materials of artistic labor. The collages are anthropological archives that offer a glimpse, not only into the artist’s own mind operating in response to form, but also to the entire history and network of people whose art is re-presented in the act of mechanical and digital reproduction.

“Recto/Verso: New Collages and Paintings” also underscores Tan’s history and working process as a visual artist. The series is one which he pursues on a continuous basis, produced in spurts alongside other diverse, concurrent projects. Tan’s collage-based painting series takes up significant space within this timeline of things, underscoring how he views these works not as mere distractions or exercises but as an increasingly significant thread within his whole body of work.

Tan first made collage-based paintings during the early 1990s, experimenting with the medium through a series of annual exhibitions at the former Finale Art Gallery in SM Megamall throughout the mid to late 1990s. Tan also exhibited a succession of collage-based works between 2009 to 2012, with shows such as Doppelgangers (2011) at TAKSU in Singapore and Altered Pages (2012) at the defunct Mag:net Gallery. The last show of collage-based paintings that Tan produced prior to this exhibition was two years ago, titled Nothing is more real than nothing (2015) also at Archivo.

Across this timeline, Tan personally observes his increasing turn towards abstraction away from playing formerly dominant figurative elements, for instance. While he has also consistently uses art books and related magazines as materials for collage, this latest exhibition expands this range with his appropriation of found billboard posters and texts as well as the process of reversing the sides of objects as a source of new images.

Wriiten By Lisa Ito

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