LA BIENAL 2013: Here is Where We Jump!
June 12, 2013 – February 15, 2014
This is the seventh edition of El Museo’s biennial exhibition. Under the title Here is Where We Jump!, La Bienal features work by artists, from newly-minted to mid-career, who live and work in the greater metropolitan area of New York City. La Bienal is a collective exhibition, a research project oriented towards a better understanding of the conditions under which artistic communities produce, present and think through art in our city. The artists’ methods and processes are of significance, as is the context in which they are interpreted. Curated by Rocio Aranda-Alvarado and Raul Zamudio.
Uptown To Oblivion/Del Uptown al olvido, 2013
Ink on drywall
For La Bienal 2013, Ernest Concepcion created this site specific drawing that imagines what East Harlem might look like during a moment of chaos or perhaps if it were being moved by a series of cranes to another location. Among the images in the work is his rendering of the Romanesque-inspired forms of historic St. Cecilia Church as well as one of the typical multi-story tenement buildings from the neighborhood. The artist’s drawings are typically an amalgamation of many sources, including the films and cartoons he watched growing up. Here we see the impact particularly of a number of recent “doomsday” films in which the entire sections of familiar landscape are disrupted in some way.
Doom Machine (Here Is Where We Jump Ship)
Maquina de ruina (es aqui donde saltamos del barco), 2013
ink, acrylic, cardboard, sticks, glue, enamel paint on drywall
Ernest Concepcion’s drawings are an amalgamation of many sources, including the films and cartoons he watched growing up as a new immigrant. His self-professed “obsession” with Filipino, American and Japanese visual culture and his fixation on detail has defined his work. In his imagery we see furniture, humans, aliens, and mythical beings deeply engaged in battle. The figures serve to define the landscape he creates as well as to invent the visual narrative the artist weaves.
Solo exhibition at Art Informal Gallery, Manila, Philippines
Nov 7 – Dec 2, 2013
As my story-driven works unravel, creating new narratives and mythologies has been my new foray with this new series in which these have evolved from my Battlefield Landscape series and Enamel paintings. Based on Peter Goin’s nuclear test site photographs, this initial imagery is further interpreted with my use of enamel to intensify and illuminate the toxicity and radioactivity of these landscapes. Enamel paint is also a recurring medium I use in my other nuclear explosion paintings to make them saccharine, cotton candy looking yet menacing and just as dangerous at the same time.
Simulating these techniques I developed during working on my Battlefield Landscapes, I strategically invade my oil-based works with ink drawn fantastical armies and have replaced them with this oil paint-based imagery sprawling on my glossy coated enamel landscapes. I maneuver and work my way around the geography of the image and create an entirely new composition based on my dreams, influences, the video games I play or just the mundane such as current news events. This new series is loosely based on Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker and the award winning PC game series of the same name, which I thoroughly played and enjoyed. The movie and the videogame are both set in a mysterious and utterly desolate area called The Zone where the normal laws of physics no longer apply due to the after effects of an alien visitation or nuclear fallout. The skies drastically change from being clear and pristine to highly lethal and tumultuous. As the objects and various artifacts appear/disappear into the background and the landscape terraforms depending on the time of day, my works morph into the strangeness and absurdity of this film which is something I long to convey.
As a New York-based Filipino artist and a new immigrant some eleven years ago, my initial response to the city was to reimagine a world where I can adapt and work with. New York being a highly charged, pernicious city impelled me to fantasize and make up an entirely new reality where I can freely create my art. Some of my imagery is also inspired by urban Manila chaos, such as the cacophony of hanging laundry and the many garish billboards that dot the landscape where it is almost hypnagogic and possesses some sort of familiar humor. This new series is ultimately a convergence of these two worlds—my two realities in which I also both call home.
I would like to act as a portal, a filter for these two disparate landscapes, New York and Manila, and create an imagined world that came forth, or morphed or mutated from nuclear landscapes. The works are made up of different layers of paint—enamel, oil, neon pigment and are also translated as different substrata and layers of my inspirations and influences. Peter Goin’s photographs of nuclear test sites illustrate the starkness where a bleached world thrives, just unblemished and uninhibited and having that blanket of expanse as a background is almost like emulating a plain white canvas. Even though the final outcome of these works is almost fantastical and surreal, they are the ideal environment that best represents my subconscious where it serves as my own habitat as well.
The Sprawl may refer to sprawling landscapes, sprawling studios, sprawling houses, or just being sprawled on the floor. I welcome the all-encompassing, panoramic aspect of looking into the great beyond, at the horizon, and imagine gateways shredding into reality, opening new worlds where one simply has no choice but to embrace it.
These paintings are an homage to my childhood in the tropical strangeness of my beloved islands of the Philippines. For some reason, growing up watching obscure, lo-budget, B-movie Filipino movies in corrosive yet bittersweet Manila greatly shaped my creative practice in New York where I currently live. I also remember when watching these movies alone during sweltering, humid afternoons on VHS is my knack of rewinding scenes I particularly like. Once in awhile I would come across a paused scene that would capture my interest–that uniquely “awkward” moment when the frame blurs the line between film and painting, or perhaps a beautiful yet always fleeting dream; that particular frame of a second when the elements seem to collide or the figures fade into obscurity, melding with the background and vice versa where time and space ultimately stood still.
Black & White series
Paying homage to the b&w of ‘The Line Wars’ series, I withdraw color from my new paintings to focus on the starkness of the ‘battle’ being waged, resulting in images from World War II that collide with scenes from my-so-called-life. I’d like to think of these new works as possible scenes from an unreleased war film by John Ford, with interventions by Max Ernst.
These paintings are nostalgic reminiscences of Philippine popular culture using kitschy references like the stickers found in our public transportation jeepneys and street art to make witty, acerbic statements. I chose enamel to replicate the vinyl-like texture and saccharine colors of the ubiquitous jeepney sticker-aesthetic. I further explore the materiality of enamel paint and simulate the machine process of printing by pouring it directly on a stretched canvas laid flat. I “herd” the paint without using traditional paint brushes to conform to the images on canvas – just like the good shepherd who tends to his flock. I consider the spills and drips and accidental textures as wayward sheep.
An evolution from The Line Wars series, The Battlefield Landscape paintings employ the concepts of war on the process of painting itself. I attack my own paintings by adding fantastical elements onto historical imagery or strategically invade my landscapes by drawing armies on the surface following its topographical formations, eventually turning tranquil natural sceneries into potential battlefields.