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The Ateneo Art Gallery, the art museum of Ateneo de Manila University and the first museum of modern art in the Philippines, holds a strong collection of the country’s social realist works of the 70s and 80s which forms the core of this exhibition.Tied to perhaps the most well-known period of Philippine history, the Marcos dictatorship, these pieces trace vital points of a nation’s often unsteady past and show ways by which reality can be imagined, partially constructed but never fully fathomed.The collection dialogues with selected pieces by winning and short-listed artists of the Ateneo Art Awards, the Gallery’s annual art prize. These works by young and emerging Filipino artists bring social realism beyond its historical narrative, engaging with new territories of meaning that keep it vibrant, relevant and contemporary.
While occupying a dynamic position between art, history and the unfolding present, Philippine social realism can be viewed in context and in a manner that is multidimensional, thereby evolving its original historical significance and enhancing its potential to connect with new audiences.
Clarissa Chikiamco, Exhibition curator


Gallery

1987
Oil on canvas
117 x 81.5 cm
Collection Ateneo Art Gallery
Gift of the artist

This work of Fer refers to the murder of liberal Italian priest Fr. Tullio Favali, who was working in Tulunan, North Cotabato in the Philippines when he was assassinated by anticommunist vigilantes in 1985. Painted after democracy was restored in 1986, the artist read, ‘‘We remember the killings, massacres, slaughter, and salvaging in those areas of Martial Law rule’ during the unveiling of this acquisition in the Ateneo Art Gallery in 1994.

2005
Graphite acrylic on resin
63 x 111 cm
Collection Ateneo Art Gallery
Gift of the artist

Ventura depicts a naked man in a fetal position encased in plastic, the transparent artificial material mimicking a baby’s amniotic sac. Yet, instead of being a safe cocoon, the plastic seems to entrap – a foot flexed at the edge of the bag, a hand outstretched pushing against its oppressor – and seems to act more as an unyielding second skin. The form finds uncanny visual resonance in Edgar Talusan Fernandez’s works of sheathed bodies (Kinupot and The Year to Remember) and brings it to today, where the new tyrant is the blatant consumerism in a country sprawling of billboards and megamalls.

Ventura won the Ateneo Art Awards in 2005 and was the first recipient of the Ateneo Art Gallery’s artist residency grant which took him to Sydney and, in partnership with La Trobe University, to Melbourne, Bendigo and Mildura.

1984
Oil on canvas
121 x 90 cm
Collection Ateneo Art Gallery
Gift of the artist

This work depicts inang bayan (Philippine motherland) with a crown of barbed wire around her mouth like a gag. The work simultaneously embraces themes of nationalism, censorship and the strong influence of the Catholic tradition in the Philippines. The Philippine flag and a sea of protesting bodies forge the backdrop as the female Christ holds her clenched fist in defiance.