Since I started traveling, I started visiting museums as well. I always love the story of every artwork. Even unfinished artwork is art. Who says an art piece has to be finished for it to be called an artwork? Even unfinished art deserves a display.
And I was lucky to be one of the first people that were able to visit a museum that features unfinished masterpiece.
Lopez Museum: Open Ends, the second exhibition offering of the Lopez Museum and Library for 2015, highlights a collection of rarely seen studies, sketches, and unfinished paintings by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. These works are a segment of the collection that will resurface after more than a decade long hiatus – well-kept and in storage. Often overshadowed by the higher-profiled Juan Luna, Hidalgo’s works reflect his quieter temperament, of an artist that is often only spoken of when referring to the tandem. Their contribution to Philippine Art is more than the laurels and distinctions they garnered in the historic Exposition win in 1884. Hidalgo and Luna were at the forefront of the development of Filipino nationhood and it was through their art that they attempted to make sense of this personal and higher struggle.
In the exhibition, Hidalgo’s final La Barca de Aqueronte is not on show; rather, it is the studies and sketches of this monumental work that is displayed. Masterfully done, they show of hands in various poses, intensities and highlights. Other works on display are of landscapes in different times of the day, moonlit seascapes and even of houses in earthy tones.
Anchored on Hidalgo’s pieces, contemporary artist Ling Quisumbing Ramilo assembled an archive of her own practice and collections to pose an analogy of methods. Experimentations with material, selections of unresolved ideas, works in progress and residues of exhibitions carefully mapped out to create a discursive juxtaposition.
A major piece is the architectural plan and maquette of Passage, a public installation at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Ramilo reconstructed the recently demolished covered walkway of the university’s Main Library, which was also the Fine Arts and Architecture students’ hang out place from the 1960s to 1990s. These colleges eventually relocated to separate areas in campus. The architectural blueprint is cased in an intricately ornate frame. The maquette on the other hand is on a shelf with stilts. It is situated on top of linked trapos (woven rugs/mats), with sewn fibers of fine wool in varying shades of green mimicking overgrown grass and weeds that are on the site of the public installation.
Toym Imao features his own maquettes of unrealized commissioned markers and monuments. An architecture graduate, he fuses his affinity for history and works these narratives into a unique visual perspective that are attempts in accuracy and creativity. The supposed 11-meter structure is presented as a scale model of the Philippine Commonwealth Monument. Featuring key figures and turning points that defined the era of 1935 to 1946, it includes Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmena, Manuel Roxas, Jose P. Laurel and Jose Abad Santos, among others. The model can be observed in the round and can be considered a summation of the Commonwealth, a transitional government for the Philippines before the attainment of full independence.
Straight through the hallway of the museum, the viewer will be greeted by Riel Hilario’s sculptural installation entitled It was a paradisical state: the body was allowed to be a body. The work attests to the craftsmanship he got from his training in the art of santo-making and woodcarving, employed in creating a different brand of mysticism.
Canine bodies bear human heads, winged creatures and cabinets make for a surreal scenario. Like a bandit, he would “smuggle images from his sleep” – from a place where complete and utter freedom reign. Disjointed characters that do not follow soundness or logic are put together for a strange gathering. Like his experimentation with the traditional art form, Hilario’s works are culled from different contexts and reappropriated for this exhibition.
Together with these contemporary works, pieces from the permanent collection of the Lopez Museum and Library are also integral to the show: Juan Luna’s iconic España y Filipinas, unfinished correspondences captured in Jose Rizal’s careful handwriting and beautifully bound and printed novenas or prayer booklets.
In Open Ends, the works point to potential stages of artistic creation: to a seeming prologue of a story, experimentation in technique and even attempts at appeasing one’s curiosity. Challenging the usual practice of exhibiting an artist’s best and finished works, the exhibition explores how value and meaning evolve by looking and experiencing art that are products of opportune moments, happy accidents and even (un)timely interruptions.
After looking at the artworks, I realized something else. Sometimes, we plan and dream of something for ourselves but end up being unable to finish it for some reasons. We fail to see the beauty and the reason why we weren’t able to do “that something.” I realized the beauty of it and maybe, we are actually tasked to do something else. We were actually done with that mission and there are more beautiful things waiting for us. It may sound deep, but this realization hit me as I saw the beauty of the unfinished artworks. It doesn’t even seem unfinished. It was already a precious artwork for me.
Open Ends exhibition will run from August 22 to December 23, 2015.
P.S. More photos to follow! Just having some internet problems as of writing this post. 🙁
Lopez Museum and Library
Address: Ground Floor of Benpres Building, Exchange Road cor Meralco Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
Landline: +63 2 631 2417