In the current exhibition at Galeria Duemila, avant-garde artist Cesare Syjuco presents an all-text exhibition in a show titled “A Life of the Mind: His Poems for Walls.” Showcasing works made entirely of words created in the past 30 years, Syjuco’s oeuvre utilizes the plastic arts to present literature where text has taken on a primarily visual function.
Syjuco is a poet-artist cultivated in the Western concepts and ideals of conceptual art of the 60s and 70s—where art began to abandon images and considered ideas as art itself. Included in its concepts is language as art, or artworks that are verbally articulated bringing the audience to another level of perception.
Text as art is considered to be “one of the most defining developments in visual art of the 20th century,” taking appreciation to a new way of thinking about art.
In the show, as Syjuco concerns himself with the visual representation of language as a method of expression, he utilizes a variety of mediums such as neon, backlit acrylic, tarpaulin panels, video projections, vitrines. Using the power of ideas and concepts behind the text, the works directly confront and provoke the viewer/reader to an immediate response that play on the imagination, sometimes evoking amusement and humor as he wittingly delves into the deeper meaning of things.
The show exhibits Syjuco’s mind that seems to absorb anything and everything around him—from pop culture to literature, technology to the social sciences, biology, politics, religion and philosophy, as well as environmental issues—and filters all these data through a creative and cerebral process producing a cross-breed of words and visual art, or what he terms “literary hybrids.”
Curated by his wife, performance artist Jean-Marie Syjuco, “A Life of the Mind: His Poems for Walls” is like a 3D encounter of a Syjuco book of poetry, where, like signages, words are displayed in various media as the viewer/reader encounters various forms of poetry loaded with layers of thought.
Known for his surreal poetry, Syjuco displays “And I…(1/5),” a 2006 text on wood panel where he writes in a rhythmic flow: “…and i/the wheel on which lives turn.,/and i/borne by birds into history.,/and/the scream to pain one decibel.,/and i/the end of everything serious.”
There is also his 2012 series of three neon on acrylic panels that seem to make meaning across time and space. In these works, glowing and brightly lit streams-of-consciousness cursives, read: 1) “Pain/jagged letters/waves/sinking”; 2) “days/mind/boyhood/growing” and 3) “time/rhyme/ring/ dazzlement”—words that reflect pure psychic automatism, its randomness revealing the absence of reason.
Language poetry is also employed such as in his 1983 text on acrylic panel, “Syllabication (1/5)” where he playfully and systematically breaks down the syllables in the word, well… “syllabication”: Syl/la/bi/ca/tion //Syl/la/bi/cation// Syl/la/bica/tion// Syl/labi/ca/tion…etc. Included in this category is his play on the famous expression “Cat Got Your Tongue (1/5),” where he breaks down the phrase into words in descending lines.
We also find a work that reflects the frontier between language and image in his 1983 text on acrylic panel, “Hypothesis 1-4 (1/5)” that seeks to portray the process that blurs the ideas behind art-making and reasoning: “…to transcend the line, celebrate form…to transcend form, celebrate space…to transcend space, celebrate reason…to transcend reason, celebrate option..”
Context can be gleaned from the physical location of the text in Syjuco’s site-specific work, a text on mirror based on a work done in 1983. Apparently, already a permanent installation inside the gallery’s restroom, the artist has etched a dainty script “Snow White forever” on the mirror above the sink that recalls the popular fairytale’s “mirror, mirror on the wall…” alluding to vanity.
To this day, contemporary artists continue to expand the endless possibilities of art-making as a means to articulate their artistic goals. Syjuco, is considered to be one of the country’s most versatile and enigmatic artists who is not just a poet and visual artist but an avant-garde composer and a renowned art critic as well. His innovative approach to work constantly surprises his audience and takes them into the realm of a mind that forays into the metaphysics of things while keeping his feet on the ground as he pokes at the idiosyncrasies of society and culture. As a surrealist-poet, Syjuco in this show takes his audience through the complex consciousness of the life of his mind.