A surge of art at Modeka

Published March 26, 2021, 10:07 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

‘Along with the other surge we’re experiencing (and wish we weren’t), it’s good to report that art is alive and well.’

Art in the time of the COVID pandemic has been a dicey proposition. While technology allows us to create virtual launches and walk-throughs of galleries, one will still ache for the immediacy and sensory impact of seeing Art right in front of our faces. 

If you really dissect the stimulus, the visual reward doesn’t necessarily change by going online. But there is my “approach” to art—and by approach, I mean figuratively and, more important, literally. In a physical show or gallery, I’ve always loved that feeling you get as you first spy a work from afar, and instinctively feel this will be one of the pieces you’ll savor. Then, as you get closer, these feelings are fortified and confirmed. Then, there’s the getting up close, taking it from different angles, and even giving it a wistful “goodbye” as you move on to the other pieces. 

Obviously, that is lost with these virtual art events, as you’re restricted by the one camera that’s going from one piece of art to the next. But still, we can’t be choosy given the surge of COVID cases, and what must have been planned as a live event with stringent health protocols, now has to be sensitive to the deteriorating pandemic situation.

Modeka Gallery at La Fuerza has three major art events that were set to unfurl this weekend. And I for one, am sorry I may not have the opportunity to be physically at their gallery openings.

’Kundiman’ by Solenn Heusaff

Solenn Heusaff’s “Kundiman,” which opens March 26, 2021, is her third solo exhibit. Her artistic vision is rooted in social realism, and the works of Kundiman are inspired by photographs she took over the last few years, then transitioned into paintings. There’s an urgency to the subject that belies how the photographs may have been taken years ago, but now still screams relevance given the present situation we find ourselves in. 

Not one to merely bank on her celebrity status to produce art and become a multi-hyphenate, I’ve often appreciated the genuine talent and vision on display when Solenn has her exhibits. Here, she sends out rays of hope, as in the paintings of foliage and plants, but she doesn’t shy from challenging the viewer to extract social commentary from her works. She’s not seeking the “pretty and beautiful” that life has to offer, but is ready to speak of inequality, abandonment, and deprivation, even if it comes from a vantage point some may view as ironic—and I’ll applaud her for trying, for unearthing the joie de vivre that persists amid the squalor and poverty. 

‘Unlimited’ by Liliana Manahan

Liliana Manahan and her “Unlimited” exhibit opens on March 27, 2021 and it’s primarily a showcase of her working with metals, stone, and ceramic, while stuck at home during this ongoing community quarantine. Once again, we’re engrossed by her meticulous attention to detail, the play between the material she has on hand, and how she blends the functional with artistry and design statements. With the combinations of squares, circles, lines, and odd shapes, she has fashioned out tones, luster, shadow, and light to reveal stories we can enjoy. 

I’ve loved Liliana’s past exhibits and her art objects for their whimsy and playfulness. And while this collection, reflective of the period in which they were created, are more on the industrial side, there still is that suggestion of a naughty wink of the eye, that tells us she has risen above the pandemic situation with her sense of levity intact—and that is wonderful news. Inventive and assured, this is one exhibit that would have been better enjoyed seeing the works in their full three dimensions. 

The “Equilibrium” group show—with the following artists: Fitz Herrera, Alfonos Recto, Sam Penaso, Jun-Jun Sta. Ana, and Ian Inoy—is characterized as “a moment in the midst of chaos.” Visual abstractions that run the gamut: from bold strokes, to spacious, quiet reflections, to the busy aspect of life, the play of light and shadow, and whimsical terrariums of upcycled materials. There’s a lot to absorb and appreciate here. The “Equilibrium” show opens March 27th.

At this point, physical visits to the gallery have to be arranged and scheduled in order to maintain optimum numbers of viewers at any one time. This is is our “new abnormal,” but it shouldn’t preclude us from appreciating the creativity and wonderful art on display.