It’s not very punk to reference a song title by, of all people, Steve Winwood, but “Abortion of Cute,” the ongoing exhibit at Artinformal Greenhills, is freedom overspill.
Not even two large-scale art events, nor the establishment imprimatur of “Art Month,” can contain the anarchic energy of contemporary Filipino art.
“If there’s a ‘birth of the cool,’ what’s the opposite?” asks the exhibit’s curator, Manuel Ocampo. “Abortion of Cute.”
I ask him if this is outsider art by insiders, or insider art by outsiders.
“Exactly,” he replies. “The artists here—they’re established. They’ve been around a long time. But they’re not represented by any galleries.”
The exhibit had its genesis in an alcohol-fueled conversation in Singapore between Ocampo and Artinformal’s Tina Fernandez. The general idea, as far as they can remember, was to present an alternative to the predictable rituals of Art Month.
“It’s not a statement,” Fernandez hastens to add. “It’s just so people can see a different point of view.”
“Different” barely begins to cover it. Many of the artworks fairly explode off the walls.
“There’s an overriding energy that’s very visceral,” says Ocampo. Literally, as in a preoccupation with innards and bodily fluids, as if to communicate the underlying body horror beneath the cuteness.
“The colors are very grimy, shitty, earth-toned—walang cute,” he adds.
“The work is teetering on the edge,” says Jose Tence Ruiz, always an astute observer of currents in the local art scene. It’s the kind of art, he suggests, birthed from primal dread fostered by the apocalyptic mood of the times.
“This is a noise-canceling headphone on its own,” he says. “It creates its own little world that’s not uncomfortable. It’s a nice little terrarium of your own. But it’s fun, it’s blatant and exuberant. Why not?”
This is the real “alt,” as in “alternative,” offers Romeo Lee who is represented, along with Ocampo, Arvin Nogueras, Edric Go, Jigger Cruz, Robert Langenegger, Bjorn Calleja, Neil Pasilan, Bud Omeng, Gerry Tan, Mike Crisostomo, Idan Cruz, Gabe Naguiat, Argie Bandoy, Jayson Oliveria, Davied Griggs, Dong Abay, Erick Encinares, Arwin Flores, Gaston Damag and Jose de Jesus. INQ“Abortion of Cute” runs until April 11 at Artinformal Greenhills, 277 Connecticut Street, Mandaluyong.