First uploaded April 8, 2019
Updated April 18, 2019
PICKS OF THE MONTH
April 2019 Picks of the Month
OH, hey. Diskurso Curation held its Apropiación group show artists' talk last April 5 at J Studio, La Fuerza Plaza, did you hear? Did you get to watch Mideo Cruz's unofficial live video of it, later on made available on our Facebook page, or our official video of the same? Again, we'd naturally be biased towards having that artists' talk video as an entry in our own April 2019 picks-of-the-month list, too, please understand, together with our publisher's interview with our editor about the latter's ongoing solo show :), but . . . once again, we know we have to look elsewhere. So, again, in those places we can access with our unpaid time, including places on the Web other than our own, here are our picks of the month for April 2019:
Anna Bautista, Karla, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 60"
Karla; Manong Andy; Louisa V (After Amorsolo). As if to echo the diskurso.com-curated Apropiacion show at J Studio that concluded on April 6, the same gallery scheduled a debut solo show, right after ours, by one Anna Bautista, titled Consumed. Bautista is a 21-year-old self-taught painter (and still Bachelor of Arts in Communications student at De La Salle University) who has already been commissioned to do murals by a few restaurants as well as by Guess Jeans and Jo Malone London. The young painter, who has also been in group shows since 2011, has supposedly been displaying a certain acumen for quoting images from art history and political and pop culture. So, we told ourselves . . . we must examine this young presence's post-Apropiacion show "intervention," and forthwith sent ourselves to the gallery for a pre-opening sneak peek of her exhibition.
What we saw was a show that was already enviably sold out before it even formally opened. Okay. So, perhaps that "success" was made possible by the purchase of her works by family friends and friends of family friends, who knows? Perhaps also by its facilitation by the reputed art marketing of Derek Flores as well as by the art pieces' "student prices" (the most expensive work was probably offered at a mere ₱48,000). Still, the family and family friends we saw looked wealthy enough; we even heard that an advance-party security staff, supposedly by Manny or Mark Villar, was inspecting the La Fuerza Plaza compound on the afternoon of April 11 before the opening night happened, one of the most well-attended J Studio opening nights it turned out. We don't know if the rumor about either of the Villars' coming was true or if M or M Villar even showed up at all, we didn't see either of them on any of the photo-posts on Facebook regarding the opening party; we left early, see. Only this we know:
the seed of the show was a mere series of five studies the painter did for a class. So, . . . call it what you want―a student show by one talented young woman from a probably wealthy family who may happen as a matter of course to have an accompanying wealth of connections, but the fact still remains that we went there to check it out. So. And what did diskurso.com gain from bothering to do a pre-opening sneak peek of the show, which we didn't know anything about, beyond succeeding here in aping Vanity Fair or People or Tatler magazine in the writing of this and the preceding paragraphs?
Well, guess what. Believe it or not, we instantly loved three of Bautista's works, enough even to merit our inclusion of them in this, our April picks of the month list!
Oh yes. But it's not because we fell for Bautista's intent to simply parody a brand-conscious consumer culture, as announced by the writing on the gallery wall; it's because we think the three pieces came up with narratives more complex than Bautista's hope for them, more complex, that is, than what she wrote she hoped to achieve. A friend of ours said they somehow recall certain prints by Ben Cabrera, and we particularly recall Cabrera's 2011 etching titled Edsa Event; our friend also mentions Bautista's approach's similarity to that of a more detailed Ronson Culibrina, and we might all recall a 2016 Culibrina piece titled Resurrección. But the three Bautista pieces we were attracted to seem each to have a more immediate and focused kind of statement, one might say more impact-leaning (undistracted by either the drawing or compositional sort of detailing) than the aforementioned Cabrera and Culibrina works. Furthermore, what's interesting is that what they state may be a bit anachronistic to the kind of crowd that the opening gathered, please correct us if we're wrong. :)
Aptly in tongue-in-cheek how-to or phone-app-modeled Impressionism in acrylic, Karla, for instance, quotes a mannerism in early Philippine oil painting―a mannerism, to be more specific, given to imitating classical painting figures' gestures. Bautista applied a contemporary (or 1920s classic) high-end fashion product logo (Chanel's) on one of the "classical" items in her painting, the milk storage pot, and voila! We don't know if Bautista is here mocking Fernando Amorsolo's penchant for portraying farm life as if they're scenes from a Walt Disney cartoon of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarves sort, but what is turned on is a spotlight on the issue of Amorsoloan kitsch as well as on the shallowness of falling for the "in" thing or brand. Remember, in the days of Amorsolo the Chanel brand was already in existence; but, again, for such a high-end fashion brand to be stamped on a milk pot looks like a humorous take on Amorsolo's kitsch or camp, as when he clothes his farm workers in what might have been the fine-dining attire of his time, not to mention his habit of putting these workers in scenes that would resemble Greek gods and goddesses the elite likely loved during his time. In Bautista's painting, or "re-painting," you would be forced to imagine what might have prompted the lords and ladies of Philippine society to prefer this or that fabric in their clothes, or this or that garden plant that might have been the rave somewhere. Even then, the Philippines already had a damaged neocolonial culture, and from the 1920s it continues in the present.
Anna Bautista, Manong Andy, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48"
Then there's Manong Andy, which places Andy Warhol's face in the person of a taho vendor, with that vendor's taho can carrying the design of a Campbell's Soup can, mocking―it would seem―Filipino neocolonial culture that is given to thinking the taho drink is inferior to Campbell's soup as food, never mind if many Pinoys would still secretly prefer their peasant food to the relatively expensive and American, thus status, product. The vendor's anachronistic bananas also not only elicit a meaning concerning "two jobs" or a small-scale "diversification" idea in hard times, they also recall Warhol's design of a Velvet Underground album cover, itself a part of the Warholian label's multi-disciplinary divergences during the pink of the artist's wealth's peaking health. It's as if Bautista is here taking a (perhaps unlikely) Marxist stance on the Warholian brand, over a socialist pink color beloved by West European socialists of old, while touting a symbol of banana republics―this is of course a reading of the painting we would like to own, in case Bautista hates or disowns it with a loud neoliberal guffaw.
Anna Bautista, Louisa V. (After Amorsolo), 2019, acrylic on canvas, 48" x 60"
Thirdly there's Louisa V. (After Amorsolo), wherein a girl from a more clearly Amorsolo painting (with the main figure here replaced by a friend of the artist or someone from Bautista's family) carries not a bunch of harvested rice stalks this time but a large bag by XOXO (a brand started in the 1990s). It is in this painting that the focus is not anymore on just ridiculing Amorsolo or his subjects nor in just touting a Marxist view on the brands and celebrity beauties of the wealthy class (or of the Filipino imported-product connoisseur). The focus has shifted to something more visceral, something resembling pathos, by placing at the center of the canvas the strength of the two aforementioned paintings' narratives in the person of an innocent-looking peasant class element who doesn't seem to be pretending to be a goddess or Walt Disney heroine. Here she is looking straight at the viewer's "camera," sincerely smiling as if she just received a gift from her landlord, a member of the lumpenbourgeois class.
Is Bautista doing a Courtney Love kind of rebellion against her family background with these three, to us successful, works? Or is her "Marxism" here inadvertent? Or, and this would be the alternative context of her aforementioned works with the most impact, is she bringing out Louisa V. as a member of the lumpenbourgeois class herself, here posing as that Amorsolo painting's peasant, just for laughs, and holding her XOXO bag instead of rice stalks to turn what may be a parody of "judgmental consumerism" into a proud celebration of its aspirational, albeit uneasy, ramifications, in effect mocking like an American Republican or advertising executive everything touted on the writing on the gallery wall?
The Bautista exhibition's show manifesto that we chose to ignore or half-disbelieve
Pollution Souvenir. Remember Piero Manzoni's Artist's Shit? A number of small business entrepreneurs in Chiang Mai didn't exactly get their inspiration from that conceptual piece for their project called Pollution Souvenir, but one can't help but compare the tone of the two concepts, how different they are and how similar. In fact, the Thai group did not cull their thought from a sardonic approach but from a canned fresh air from Switzerland. But if that Swiss company's sweet project got its inspiration from Manzoni's laughing or angry piece, then the full circle has been completed, ending in Pollution Souvenir's apologetic and hopeful Thai kind of bottled bow. What a social sculpture!
The cover of Priests' The Seduction of Kansas album, released April 5
The Seduction of Kansas. The legislative voice in The Seduction of Kansas is perhaps how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's black satires might sound like if she were also a singing poet in the halls of punks and post-punks, veering her gaze―like Priests vocalist Kathy Alice Greer―towards the NRA-allied Christian Right or the bullying eloquence of Internet pseudo-intellectuals. Purportedly their version of, or sonic expansion on, Thomas Frank's book titled What's The Matter with Kansas?, Priests' second studio album is like a long, mellifluous monologue on how America's folk tales that probably started as right-libertarian satirical jokes or bitter wishful thinking soon turned into America's schismatic bunch of new, substitute reality in the second half of the 2010s. You have the most venomous of parties here, from the Koch brothers (Kansas' very own) in the opener to "Good Time Charlie" iterating to the world humanity's common worship of weapons and wealth. All this via Priests' sweet-sounding harmony and melodious kind of Hole-ish pull.
Gold's Gym's Body Transformation: Lose to Win print ad campaign. Gym work for either body-building or fat reduction is a sculptural ideation process with an ideal in mind.
True, it's also a science, as everything else in art is (the production of pigments, organic or synthetic, always has been).
The sculptural facet of gym work has also always been attached to infallible hardness (the marble, the bronze, the wood), the reason why soft sculpture (which includes crunchy materials that crumble) has to carry that modifier, "soft," as if soft sculpture is a totally different art form in itself, like installation art or the bricolage or the intervention. This is also the reason why certain other materials that run short of sculpture's infallibility ideal, such as synthetic materials that easily melt or may attract insects, are relegated to the shelves of lesser sculptural achievements, at least from the point of vie of sculpture's righteous traditionalists.
So, Gold's Gym's April 2019-released print ad series showed us in three photographs three "sculptures" in all their softness (via their folds that you can almost touch), each accompanied by a small soft or "lesser sculpture" embedded in its soft cranny. These lesser sculptures would then be touted as the reason for all the softness that had infected the larger bodies they were clinging to. Here, we knew at once what Gold's Gym and its ad agency, DDB Dominican Republic, were pointing to in that series: the fact that gym work and sculpture's attachment to hardness are one.
Sure, fat has also been celebrated in hard sculpture, notably by the many Buddha manifestations in bronze, brass, stone, or ceramic, helping transform all that flabbiness into something eternal and steady. But the Gold's Gym ad argues that such celebrations of fat are hardly the kind that you see everyday, beyond the cosmic. To prove that, it inserted into daily common fat what couldn't be inserted into fat Buddhist hardness in meditation.
Sandvik's Let's Create: The Smash-Proof Guitar project. Art has always been destructive. One need not witness Nam June Paik go through his One for Violin Solo to believe this axiom. Or read about that Destruction in Art Symposium in 1966, wherein Raphael Montañez Ortiz showed some of his destruction events. Or see Gustav Metzger practice his Auto-Destructive Art. Everything in art destroys something, bad or good, internally via its themes or expressions or art-historically via its rebellions against earlier or others' ongoing art (even art forms).
And so, in rock music, instrument smashing has been there forever to represent whatever you want it to represent. It's been part of this art of instrument or vocal screams and shrieks and growls and threatening or sexy thumping. Perhaps all that has been for new successful bands (pushed up by artistic mythos and corporate branding) to also show that they can now actually afford to wreck thousand-dollar guitars, with the contextual alibi that the act is all in the name of youth angst.
Well, Sandvik wants to reverse all that wastefulness care of materials engineering, to maybe put some science into the juvenile act henceforward. Kudos to Sandvik and its appropriation of Yngwie Malmsteen for this project released to the public this month.
Volkswagen's Blood Alcohol Content print ad campaign. Poetry is all about how to say "I love you" without saying "I love you." Better poetry, meanwhile, is all about how to say "I love you" without going through the same "I'll climb the highest mountains" sort of laughable bullshit.
Needless to say, poetry gets harder everyday. And the same principle applies to visual poetry.
So, how do you say, in visual terms, "don't be stupid, don't drink and drive," after having been exposed to all those slogans and visuals in the past and recent past that have said the same thing and yet also all seem to have been repeatedly ignored? Perhaps a way to move forward is to rework the statement, to something more blunt, like, "alcohol can actually make you stupid," the way Volkswagen's new print ad series on beer, tequila, and vodka, has done in Argentina. After the statement rework, aided by DDB Argentina, the visual poetry for the same statement can only follow easily. Even prolifically, free from accidents.
So, therefore, don't come telling us now artists shouldn't create art from a plan. That's alcoholic! Probably even stupid!
Pornhub's new Beesexual genre section. Like any porn business, Pornhub would defend its and porn's existence as necessary to procreation. Can you indeed imagine life without instigators of continuing libido, with everyone looking at sex either the way Puritans claimed they look at it as (as if costumes, religious or otherwise, aren't always fetish material by themselves) or the way some of us look at it now―as a boring activity? My God, we'll have an aging population, threatening our future workforce and military numbers! Can you imagine no more than a million Filipinos alive in a future of screaming for water to wet their lips with atop a parched planet, all because they got lazy about bringing babies to Earth who could've helped them later screw the earth's pores in order to get to wet wells? Such a tragic story!
But, lest you get us wrong, we're not here to funnily defend porn. We're here to laud Pornhub's "Beesexual" concept hatched from within its corporate social responsibility department extending porn's usual defense stance to the area of bee preservation, launched this month. This is art!
But, of course, most Paypal-paying aficionados of Internet porn won't exactly get a hard-on in their genitalias or nipples from this sort of melissophilic venture, we realize that. But it would at least give them a chance this time to prove their seriousness with their usual defense stance regarding their pastime and do their part in masturbating life's eagerness to move forward, against sauna-soft-like global warming defeatism.
Burger King France's "flame-grilled drinking glasses". Burger King burgers are flame-grilled. In itself, that truth is both culinary art and process sculpture.
How else to promote the main element in that process than by heightening this year the sculpture part of that combine via a process-melted manifestation? Congrats to Agency Buzzman and Burger King France who are giving away 1.5 million flame-grilled drinking glasses in France to go with Cheese and Bacon Whopper meals for a limited time.
The cover of Weyes Blood's Titanic Rising album released April 5
Titanic Rising. On the very first track of now-Sub Pop artist Weyes Blood's fourth collection, Titanic Rising, we already feel we're in for a big treat after hearing the crying but encouraging words in Verse 2 of the opener, "A Lot's Gonna Change," which go, "Born in a century lost to memories, / Falling trees, get off your knees. / No one can keep you down / If your friends and your family / Sadly don't stick around. / It's by time you'll learn to get by." By that alone, we can already believe Pitchfork's description of the album as "a grand, sentimental ode to living and loving in the shadow of doom." But, like we said, that's only the opener, which could be an early encouragement, as this very track soon outros with the ominous couplet that just can't let things pass by unaddressed: "Let me change my words. / Show me where it hurts" . . . paving the way for a collation that makes psychedelic pop's flats and sharps a manifesto for pessimism, as epitomized by the challenge of "Something to Believe" or "Picture Me Better."
Taking off from the influence of those now-great '60s and '70s singer-songwriters who crafted some of psychedelic folk history's best songs, 30-year-old Natalie Mering (aka Weyes Blood, after Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood) has indeed come up with a complex collection of imaginative ways of re-saying those things we've already heard a lot of times said in the world's library of elegies. The result? A sonic compound of poetry with a laid-back sort of intensity that can perhaps make us already safely label Titanic Rising a surefire 2010s masterpiece.
At times sounding pleasant like Joni Mitchell, affecting like Carole King or Carly Simon, dulcet like Karen Carpenter, or torchy like Connie Francis (in "Andromeda"), Mering spins a bagua web of anachronisms, swinging between positivity and its opposite, rehashes and new takes, and so on, all over her and Jonathan Rado's multicolored production (which at one point, in "Movies," would even churn out something like a gloomy sort of Enya New Age).
Lyrics-wise, what could be found here would, of course, include the usual polysemy common in psychedelic pop's sad songs. Reflecting our daily grind of parties for and rallies against, "Movies" looks like both Mering's Pop Art ode to and disappointed parody of an art form or public iconography medium. "Andromeda," meanwhile, is a yin and yang painting of faith and doubt in relationships. "Everyday" may be reduced to something like the Decadent movement's rebellious surrender hiding unhappiness, but who knows for sure?
"Wild Time" might be a simple-sorrow love song, but with a line in the Chorus that goes, "Don't cry, it's a wild time to be alive," the track could also now get to be either our favorite neo-hippie song of the year or our fave portrait of the Trump era, especially with its bridge that goes, "It already happened. / Nothing you want to change more. / Heaven found that life went down. / Everyone's broken now and no one knows just how / We could have all gotten so far from truth." In verse 1 of the song, the final line "With no fear, we'd fall" already upends every fun thing. Picture Edvard Munch's Madonna side by side with his The Scream―there's a nice accompaniment to this album's dirge to existence in our wild time.
But, true, the album is potentially going to be everyone's personal semiotic ride. After all, as Mering sings on “Mirror Forever”: “No one’s ever gonna give you a trophy for all the pain and the things you’ve been through. No one knows but you.”
Corona Beer's "Spot the Plastics" TV ad and the upcoming Corona x Parley: Protect Paradise project. The Intervention. And that fearsome thing called Conceptual Art. Here applied to Corona Beer's new cause-oriented TV ad, produced with Paraguay's Oniria/TBWA. Titled Spot the Plastics, the ad is for Corona Beer's project with Parley for the Oceans coming up next month, which so far looks like a wow in the world of mostly fake corporate social responsibility attempts.
Victims of Fun. This obscure but still quite significant 2006-2012 independently-produced documentary on a Seattle, er, actually global continuing art-cum-economic-cum-political debate, titled Victims of Fun, just got uploaded to YouTube by Victims of Fun. Thank God for that! (Er, we actually mean the real God, not the police.)
Good job, director, executive producer, co-producer, and editor Dan Schwert. [d]
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diskurso is an independent, Philippines-based online magazine on art aiming to veer away from a present mental landscape replete with the customary peacock and weasel words that continue to service the art industry.