Wednesday, January 17, 2007


[First published in Philippine Graphic, Manila, Jan. 22, 2007]

Chromatext Reloaded at the CCP

In this space a fortnight ago, we touted the revival of Caracoa, the poetry journal of the Philippine Literary Arts Council or PLAC. The long-running journal that was started in 1981 had lain dormant for nearly a decade since its last issue in 1997. The current generation of outstanding young poets in English reawakened it from slumber in time for Christmas last month, as Caracoa 2006: The Silver Issue, which thus served to commemorate PLAC's 25th anniversary.

The celebration continues this month with a grand verse-cum-visual exhibit mounted by PLAC & Friends at no less than the Main Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Opening at 6pm on January 25 and lasting till February 28, the show is billed as Chromatext Reloaded, in recall of two previous Chromatext exhibits held by PLAC in the 1980s at the then celebrated Pinaglabanan Galleries in San Juan.

Some fifty Filipino poets and writers from here and abroad, spanning several generations, get together for this rare exhibit that assembles visual art works by PLAC poet-members and special guest artists, co-curated by Sid Gomez Hildawa, Jean Marie Syjuco and yours truly.

An array of works — from holographs to photographs, poem-integrated illustrations and paintings to sculptural installations and video that also incorporates literary text — will be displayed in this exhibit led off by PLAC's original core members: Jimmy Abad, Cirilo Bautista, Ricky de Ungria and Krip Yuson.

They are joined by other distinguished writers, among them Gilda Cordero Fernando, Raul Ingles, Tita Lacambra-Ayala, Sylvia Mendez-Ventura, Lilia Amansec, Ophelia Dimalanta, Merlie Alunan, Marjorie Evasco, Butch Dalisay, Cesare A.X. Syjuco, Juaniyo Arcellana, RayVi Sunico, Danton Remoto, and Sid Gomez Hildawa.

From abroad, PLAC members and friends have sent in their contributions, such as from David Cortes Medalla in London and Eric Gamalinda, Nick Carbo, Luisa Igloria, Eileen Tabios, Zack Linmark, and Melissa Kristoffel-Nolledo in the U.S.

From Baguio City, the participating poet-artists include Butch Macansantos, Babeth Lolarga and Frank Cimatu.

Special guest artists who happen to be intimate with writers, if not writers themselves, include National Artist for Sculpture Billy Abueva and National Artist for Painting Ben Cabrera or Bencab, graphic artist Pandy Aviado, painter-sculptor-writer Manny Baldemor, sculptor Agnes Arellano, painters Rock Drilon and Jean Marie Syjuco, painter-musician Heber Bartolome, conceptual artist Judy Freya Sibayan, designer-illustrator Beaulah Taguiwalo, and writer-painters Erlinda Panlilio, Marivic Rufino, Barbara Gonzalez and Igan D'Bayan.

Among the younger generation of poets and writers joining the exhibit are Jovi Miroy, Vim Nadera, Fran Ng, Lourd de Veyra, Jessica Zafra, Sarge Lacuesta, Joel Toledo, Ginny Mata, Carlomar Daoana, Mookie Katigbak, and Angelo Suarez.

Performance art, musical works, dance and readings will highlight the exhibit opening, to which the public is invited, as well as the closing ceremonies at 6pm on Saturday, February 27.

Copies of the revived poetry journal Caracoa and special commemorative editions of CD albums featuring the recorded readings of PLAC poets will also be on sale for the duration of the exhibit.

And what an assortment of visual/verbal/verse art it is.

From London, Medalla has sent a colored xerograph of an image with "manipulated text." From New York, Gamalinda has mailed handwritten poems in brittle old paper. From Virginia comes a video of readings by Igloria, from San Francisco conceptual art sheets with a deconstructionist poem and visual collage by Eileen Tabios, from Seattle several fine canvas prints of digital art based on short stories by the late lamented Wilfrido "Ding" Nolledo, as done by his oldest daughter, Melissa Nolledo-Christoffels. Below her works are excerpts of her father's equally mesmerizing prose.

Dimalanta displays two of her poems that have spawned visual works by artist-friends: a cross-stitched piece of her "A Kind of Burning" by Dr. Alice Sun Cua, as well as a text-based painting by Prof. Noel Flores of UST's College of Fine Arts and Design; and a holograph or in-her-own-write rendering of her "Surreal Love" paired off with a charcoal painting by the excellent artist Fil de la Cruz that has been inspired by the poem.

Arcellana contributes part of a fallen, post-Milenyo ylang-ylang tree planted by his father Franz in their old home garden in UP Village. Bencab lends his portraits of writers (including his fellow National Artists Nick Joaquin and NVM Gonzalez), while printmaker non pareil Pandy Aviado joins in with woodcuts of poems by his early Ateneo mentors Eric Torres and Tony Manuud.

Lacuesta and Suarez have remarkable floor installations, while Sunico's wine-rack installation features his poems as bottle labels. Cimatu has submitted blown-up "komiks." Linmark's short poems have been handwritten by movie actor Piolo Pascual on his own glamour photos. Hildawa's poem "How To Be a Door" is written with a marker pen on the gallery's glass doors.

Evasco shows a calligraphed poem plus an image of Zobel’s “Tension Luminosa” painting. Daoana comes across with a hand-sewn wedding dress embroidered with his poem "(A Notion of) Marital Bliss.” Zafra collaborates with a group of digital artists on a scintillating slideshow.

Amansec, Baldemor, Bartolome, Cordero-Fernando, D'Bayan, Drilon, "Tweetums" Gonzales, Mendez-Ventura and Rufino are represented by paintings, most of which have related text. Each of Panlilio's three oil paintings is paired off with her own haiku. Ng has an auto-portrait with integrated text.

Fictionist-photographer Ginny Mata's "Exposure" is a large, 4-ft.-by-7-ft. tarpaulin with images of body parts, nude and otherwise, along with accompanying text, and is meant to be a commentary on the commercialization of beauty in popular media.

All in all, Chromatext Reloaded is a dazzling celebration of the word, in dynamic fusion with visible, palpable, electrifying and endearing art.