misfits in the afternoon
- 1 October 2023
An exhibit imbued with nostalgia among kindred spirits, misfits in the afternoon is a long-overdue reunion of eight Philippine contemporary artists who met through chance encounters at different artistic crossroads and since then witnessed each other evolve and flourish in their respective practices. Ronald Achacoso, Francesca Enriquez, Pardo de Leon, Jet Melencio, Aleth Ocampo, Dan Raralio, Popo San Pascual, and Reg Yuson “meet” once more after three decades since their exhibits together as schoolmates at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. Nilo Ilarde, also a peer and schoolmate, takes on the challenge of curating such a diverse exhibition that spans across different mediums and styles.
In an intimate storytelling, Jet Melencio shares the profound connections that he has forged with his fellow artists, transcending the bonds of artistic camaraderie that have become the foundation of their cherished relationships.
Popo San Pascual
Popo San Pascual, ‘Chelsea’ series, acrylic on canvas, 122 cm x 91.44 (48 x 36 in) each
I met Popo San Pascual at the kiosk along the Walk (the path leading to the UP Main Library Building, former location of the College of Fine Arts). I have an early memory of us making a dramatic entrance at an exhibit opening at the Alliance Francaise with a cast of characters in full absurdist drag singing happy birthday; Popo carrying a cake complete with lit candles. It was, of course, nobody’s birthday. Popo painted sprawling murals of gardens, empty swimming pools, and life-sized interiors with characteristically loose and primal brushwork; and singularly changed Philippine figurative painting, influencing succeeding generations of artists.
Pardo de Leon
Pardo de Leon, ‘Flaxen (diptych),’ oil on canvas, 122 x 122 (48 x 48 in) each
I remember going to an opening of Pardo de Leon’s at Finale Art File (at the time, a small gallery in Sunvar Plaza), seeing her lusciously painted juxtapositions of classical figures, rifles and taxicabs and marveling at how art could be so transgressively exuberant. In her large-scale paintings, flamingos, angels, twisted silverware, and leaping frogs tumbled in a psychedelic fever dream. My father had brought me to artists’ studios since I was a child, so I grew up knowing art as a safe space. Until then I had never known that painting could be so worldly and dangerous.
I had been an admirer of Francesca Enriquez’s work even before I met her. In fact, I don’t recall exactly how we met but I think it was at one of the many group shows at Finale Art File. By the time I was in art school, she had gone away to the US and had entered an abstract expressionist phase. Gifted with pure instinct, she was largely regarded as a painter’s painter. But before she was a painter, she was a dancer. I remember seeing her work for a show curated by Chabet at Pinaglabanan Galleries called Five Girls: Alarm and Chaos. Keka’s work stood out for me because they clearly embodied the title. The word that came to mind was “attack”. Bold, unusual colour and gestures that suggested that her whole body was deployed. Traces of hands and feet. They were not for the faint-hearted.
I met Aleth Ocampo through Popo who, at the time, was doing various projects for Sari- Sari Store. Together with Popo, Pardo de Leon, and a cast of eccentric characters, Aleth’s bold and unadulterated sense of colour contributed significantly to the Sari-Sari aesthetic and the store’s unique, era-defining joie de vivre. It was a hedonistic time; and Aleth was even then, a fully-fledged bon vivant. Her vibrant, larger-than-life still lifes continue to be populated by clearly defined objects of leisure, devoid of shadow or ambiguity.
Ronald Achacoso, ‘Messenger,’ oil and acrylic on paper, 105 x 77 cm (45 1/2 x 30 1/4 in)
My early memories of Ronald Achacoso are of a mysterious figure deeply into science and rumored to keep a menagerie of exotic animals. Fellow artists described shadowy paintings of human figures and animals, but by the time I became familiar with Ronald’s work, he had moved on to painting microcellular structures; and later on, works involving text. His painting process had evolved into a form of reverse archaeology; wherein layers were added upon layers which obscure and obfuscate rather than uncover and reveal. His text based work also evidenced his facility with words. He is equally recognized and celebrated as an art writer for his incisive wit and depth of insight. Seeking camouflage rather than attention, Ronald has since focused his energy on creating an arboretum for indigenous Philippine flora; which he sees as a form of painting on a grand scale.
Reg Yuson, ‘Obelisk 2,’ Stainless steel and adobe concrete, 166.5 x 48 x 48 cm (65 1/2 x 19 x 19 in)
Coming from a later generation, it was by chance that Reg Yuson crossed our paths. In the early 90’s, Prof. Chabet decided to teach a class on “Advanced Problems in Sculpture” and invited some of his former students, among them Francesca Enriquez, Pardo de Leon, Popo San Pascual and myself to participate. Among those enrolled was a mild-mannered youth we came to know as Reg. Though quite reserved, he inadvertently became embroiled in the shenanigans that ensued from such a mix of creative personalities. Even as a student, Reg’s work was often dramatic in form and ambitious in scale. I remember a 20ft arch in flaming red piercing the earth like a giant corkscrew. His memorable forms and unconventional use of high spec industrial materials and finishes quickly earned widespread recognition. Reg’s work has found its place in many prominent local spaces and into the public consciousness; among these, his giant suspended boulder emitting water- an indelible sight on the Bonifacio High Street.
Don Rarailo, ‘Mental Block #’ and ‘Mental Block &,’ stainless steel and synthetic marble, 35 x 70 x 76 cm (13 3/4 x 27 1/2 x 30 in)
The first time you see one of Dan Raralio’s acclaimed Mental Block pieces, it immediately becomes embedded in your psyche. The dense geometry of the steel cube compressing the soft volume of the pillow. The awareness that this softness is an illusion and that the pillow is actually hard, unyielding synthetic marble. The perfect simplicity of this relationship of contrasts with all its ironies and philosophical implications makes this work an icon of Philippine contemporary sculpture. Sculptors are a rare breed of artist and Dan was part of an earlier generation so our encounters were scant and fleeting; but his work imparted a zen-like presence and provided a vital counterpoint to the more chaotic and political messaging of the times.
About the Author
One of the “misfits,” Jet Melencio’s artistry is a continuous exploration of his craft–finding its way from music to performance art and the visual arts in its myriad forms of expressions. This time, Melencio presents a mixed media piece in a series of woven drawings that have been transformed into synthetic images through digital processing and mounted on raw canvas.
Jet Melencio, ‘Entanglement’ series 1-5, Image transfer on canvas, 50.8 x 40.64 cm (20 x 16 in)
About the Curator
Just like the artists participating in the show, Nilo Ilarde graduated from UP’s Fine Arts department and has exhibited his own works apart from pursuing a curatorial practice. Their shared experience as artists along with Ilarde’s familiarity with each of the participants’ works – having curated some of their solo exhibitions beforehand – gives him an intimate curatorial perspective.
Presented in partnership with Exclusive Bank Partner HSBC, misfits in the afternoon runs from September 28 to October 11, 2023. Visit the Salcedo Auctions main gallery to see their works up close and personal. The gallery is open from Tuesdays to Fridays, 9AM – 6PM, and Fridays, 9AM – 4PM at NEX Tower, 6786 Ayala Avenue, Makati City.
For more information, visit the Salcedo Auctions website, or send an email to [email protected], or phone +63 917 825 7449 | +63 917 591 2191 | +63 917 107 5581.2