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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Louie Cordero

b. 1978, Philippines

There is always an air of ambiguity in the world created by Louie Cordero:  a  world that is often described as bizarre or riotous, and sometimes even grotesque or abject. In his paintings, sculptures, and installations Cordero uses anatomical innards, muscle tissue, veins, and eyeballs to construct a new, unclassifiable species that has evolved through forms, shapes, and patterns, and then juxtaposes them with iconographies from the current social milieu: the images of Catholicism, the relics of the so-called Third World (Southeast Asia and Africa), the air- brushed panels of the Manila jeepney, the stuntmen of lowbrow Filipino films, the primitivism of native crafts, and the localized narratives of Western Popular culture—from Hollywood imagery in shop signs and graffiti to the sanctification of American pop songs in run-down videoke bars.
Multiculturalism,  kitsch,  and  pastiche have become trademarks for Filipino art, given that the country is not only a set of different islands with different dialects and traditions, but also a former colony of different imperial forces, starting with the Spaniards in the late sixteenth century to the Japanese in the middle of the twentieth century. It seems as if the average Filipino, who has been swamped to this day with a smorgasbord of influences, suffers from a certain horror vacui—a need to fill up the spaces because the nation itself is crowded with unresolved histories.

Most of the artists preceding Cordero portrayed the energy of Manila through its socio-historical context, attempting with their paintings to expose political oppression by using symbolisms of poverty, imperialism, and consumerism, usually concocted in a gloomy or satirical atmosphere. Cordero, however, deviates from these templates to produce his own rendition of the city, celebrating it in bright, neon colors with depictions of its uber- mundane, almost absurdist moments.

In terms of composition, in recent years Cordero has slowly deviated from a purely figurative and symbolist portrayal to more constructivist and abstract forms. The result is a new category of images that is entirely his own: a juxtaposition of grotesque, narrative elements with cubist and constructivist forms, a combination of primitivism and formalism, a hodgepodge of whimsical dreamscapes and tropical landscapes.

Through his art, Cordero continues to assimilate the ways of the naïve, the native, and the lowbrow together with the sensuous allure of affluence and progress. His characteristic mélange of forms, uncategorized slew of shapes, and snippets from real life become the symbiosis of good and bad taste, of sanctity and irreverence, and of humor and seriousness, which can be seen as an apt reflection of the current state of Filipino society. For as much as these ventures may result in what most of us would call difficult and sometimes shocking imagery, in Cordero’s world these are the succinct narratives of memory and fantasy, and a faithfulness to the history of his motherland.

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In Related Press

WASAK! - Arndt gallery, Berlin Related Press WASAK! - Arndt gallery, Berlin Randian : 8 April 2016

In the 1970s, the Philippines were the pearl of South East Asia and a popular travel destination. My father was backpacking there on his way to Japan, but decided to stay in this island paradise. Several visits later, he married my mother and returned to Bremen, Germany with her. She adapted to her new circumstances very quickly; she learned the...

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WASAK! Filipino Art Today at ARNDT Berlin Related Press WASAK! Filipino Art Today at ARNDT Berlin Art Radar : 12 January 2016

ARNDT gallery and the newly established ARNDT Art Agency A3 in Berlin present WASAK! Filipino Art Today. The exhibition, which opened on 5 December 2015 and continues until 30 January 2016, attempts the formidable task of mapping the art of a geographic region distinctive for its splintered nature.ARNDT, a gallery that focuses its attention on...

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