RM de Leon

3/15/2020 Human-Nature-Industry

On March 15, 2020, we were thrown into a world that we'd never experienced before. The familiar patterns of everyday life were suddenly disrupted. Confused and anxious, we only know that we are dealing with a menacing enemy that forces us to be isolated. We have no reference to make sense of the disorienting situation, which feels "surreal."

 

To combat the sense of vagueness and aimlessness of daily life, RM de Leon approaches art-making as a routine to assemble his life. The exhibition presents a selection of works on paper that the artist made since the first day of the lockdown in Metro Manila. 

 

Stains, splashes, smudges, brush strokes, doodling, and cutouts of cartoon images, De Leon employs the visual languages reminiscent of Surrealism. His involuntary mark-making is akin to the technique of automatism combined with collage, which is grounded in the idea that a person's subconscious could be more mighty and reliable than any product of conscious thought. While the organic expressions of materials and the energy of the artist's marks stimulate the viewer's senses, overall abstraction invites free associations and interpretations. Thus, De Leon's work unlocks the viewer's imaginations suppressed under the conscious mind's control.

 

Spontaneous hand movement leaves the traces of De Leon's nightly observation of the unprecedented and unforeseeable situations, securing a meditative space for the artist to comprehend and accept reality. Marked by the subtle yet rigorous tension between the controlled and the uncontrollable, the resulting works reflect the artist's criticism of the otherworldliness rendered by the irrational speeches and actions of the world leaders, which isolate and jeopardize the lives of people. The smallness and fragility of De Leon's work represent the vulnerability of the human body. It engages in dialogue with the viewer, who is simultaneously the eyewitness to the surreal situations happening in this very moment.  (Mayumi Hirano)

Pete Jimenez

Bed Capacity

A bed of collected, used gloves comprises a telling narrative. It is, more so, when this said bed is placed within the confines an exhibition room in a gallery – the room becomes an allusive space. Perhaps, even more telling, the result is a covert critique of our present day circumstances.

 

A bed and an obsessive number of used gloves that are meticulously assembled into a lattice mattress is a surrealistic visual. Perhaps the said image makes for a totemic memorial for the things that has come to pass, and, or, yet to be?

 

Urgently tackling the matter, the exhibition title “Bed Capacity” is culled from the relentless television and social media barrages announcing the state of full occupancy of the emergency rooms and patient wards. This is the aftermath of the exponential outbreak of the COVID virus in Metro Manila, and other cities and provinces in the country.

 

For artist Pete Jimenez, the cathartic trigger to use the bed as an object and image for an installation piece came from his indirect, yet difficult, experience during the ongoing pandemic. A senior member of the artist’s family was in dire need of emergency medical assistance (due to another illness) and they found themselves anxiously rallying from one hospital to another as these were filled over and beyond its capacity.

 

Artists at different times in art history have used the image of the bed to convey various themes, ranging from a person’s alienation due to the increasing rise of industries and commerce in the middle of the 20th century; to modern works of art in the same time frame (1950s) that saw in one artist’s work the pivotal use of the bed as a literal object that paved the way for the further development of painting as an experimental medium; and in the post-modern and post-conceptual art years (1990s), it was featured as a representation of libertine activities and its subsequent angst experienced by a segment of the youthful generation.

 

Previous exhibitions has seen Jimenez’ guile in negotiating the opposite poles of the esoteric and the vernacular, while mainly focusing on the latter. Employing an aesthetic that rummages consumer debris and other historical-valued, and not, found materials, the artist has brilliantly juxtaposed these with slogans, buzzwords, and urban clichés that spring from the current issues that define our popular culture. Jimenez is quick on his feet and abundant with wit in recognizing the puns, both visual and literal, that make the connections for these, and thus delivering a satirical and darkly humorous commentary. In “Bed Capacity,” it is all of these once again, and the artist remains not turning a blind eye to the pressing, and timely, needs of the moment. (Jonathan Olazo)