Contemporary Cebu

Contemporary Cebu: Not the Usual Art Exhibit

Cebu has always had a unique personality, a place I like to call a ‘crossroads between a small town and a big city.’ Albeit the exponential urban growth of Cebu, she has still managed to preserve the beautiful history and traditions of generations old heritage – especially in the field of art. And others are taking notice.

Last January 4, 2012, an art exhibit was launched at the Cebu City Museum (popularly remembered as our Rizal Library and Museum, which has usually been associated with disregard). But a quick visit will truly impress the visitor as it has been renovated to look more modern and sheek, fitting for the exhibit’s title of “Contemporary Cebu.” Curated by JV Castro, who also curates for Manila Peninsula’s art collection, this Cebu art exhibit features the artworks of Karl Roque, Sio Montera, Wenceslao Cuevas, Marvin Chito Natural, Palmy Pe – Tudtud, Kidlat, Ritchie Quijano, Vidal Alcoseba Jr. and Russ Ligtas.

For Contemporary Cebu, JV explains, “It is an exhibition that features some of the finest artists we have in Cebu. All the works in the exhibit are done by Cebuano artists who specialize in contemporary works, meaning the portrayal of subjects are different. In a way, we want to promote Cebu in a different light.” And truly, this exhibit has. Upon entering the exhibit, your eyes will not know where to look first, for each piece seems to be an entirely different message in itself, with its own story to tell. There is Sio Montera’s piece, spanning almost the entire back wall with his yellow “Final Warning on Global Warming.”  Another work, timely with the Sinulog festivities is Wenceslao ‘Tito’ Cuevas’ “Do Not Enter Our Aura with Your Hysteria” with repeated images of the Sto. Nino against an abstract background, up to the viewer’s own interpretation. It is interesting to note that Cuevas currently stands as the father of abstract expressionism in the Queen City of the South with his much celebrated pieces. Unique also to the exhibit are the works on circular canvass by Karl Roque, “After the Storm” (a personal favorite) and “Scent of the Morning Rain”. In fact, Roque’s “Scent of the Morning Rain” was an entry to the Philippine Art Awards and is being displayed to the public in the exhibit for the first time.

Aside from the more mature artists, JV writes in his curatorial essay that we also have artists from today’s youth, Russ Ligtas (and the Junks Collective). Although graffiti art has been disliked a few years back, “locals have slowly begun to accept these ‘vandalisms’ as works of art full of rebellion and teen angst.” Another artist who exemplifies local graffiti is Kidlat, whose works “evoke a clean and crisp image of refined rebellion.” Meanwhile, the works of Marvin Natural suggests a social realism theme as he presents Cebu’s societal problems, playing with colors in his scenic paintings to undertone his meanings. For others like Ritchie Quijano, we still see the local culture in their works. “His distorted sculptures consist of found objects like rusty sickles, dangerous swords, and rough stones formed to reflect Christian iconography and Cebuano history”, Castro notes.

Unlike other galleries or exhibits that usually portray old paintings or those of traditional sceneries and landscapes, the Contemporary Cebu exhibit evokes an appreciation for the art and abstraction, even if the viewer is not an art enthusiast. And of course, there is that flame of Cebuano pride seeing how others have begun to take interest in the talent and culture that has usually been overlooked by others. JV shares, “We want Cebuano contemporary art to be celebrated and appreciated here in Cebu. We also want to promote awareness among the public.” With its free admission, the Contemporary Cebu exhibit is a wonderful venue for Cebuanos to stir their appreciation and generate attention for our own local talent and art.

JV is a graduate of Art Management from the Ateneo de Manila University. He interned at the country’s premier modern museum, the Ateneo Art Gallery and is the current curator for the Alternative Contemporary Art Studio. Up until recently, he used to manage the Manila Peninsula’s art collection but is leaving soon to manage art collections in Xiamen China, Minnesota, USA, and Santigao, Chile for Hafnia. He will also be working on some projects for the NCCA this year and next as well as hosting an arts and culture show. 

“Contemporary Cebu” is located in the Cebu City Museum (Rizal Library and Museum), along Osmena Boulevard. The Exhibit runs until January 31, 2012; Admission is Free. Organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi), the Alternative Contemporary Art Studio and The Grove by Rockwell. The event is sponsored by the Cebu City Government, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission of Cebu City, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Blue Shield Risk Management, Gothong Southern, Michelangelo Pizzeria, and Hola España.

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