writings, projects and exhibitions of Clarissa Chikiamco

Saturday, January 29, 2011

See you at Tad's talk later today and the closing of his show at Pablo Gallery, Fort Bonifacio! Later in the week, see you also at the book launch of The Life and Art of Lee Aguinaldo, published by Vibal Foundation in partnership with the Ateneo Art Gallery, on 3 February 2011, Thursday, 6 pm at Leong Hall, Ateneo de Manila University with a reception to follow at the Ateneo Art Gallery.

Vibal Foundation and Ateneo Art Gallery launch

“The Life and Art of Lee Aguinaldo” on February 3

For its 50th anniversary, the Ateneo Art Gallery is currently holding a retrospective exhibition of the works of Lee Aguinaldo, pioneer Philippine abstractionist, pop and conceptualist artist. The exhibit entitled “Lee Aguinaldo: In Retrospect” was opened to the public last October 26, 2010 and is on view until February 5, 2011.

On February 3, two days before the end of the retrospective, The Life and Art of Lee Aguinaldo, a long-overdue and much anticipated book, will be launched by Vibal Foundation, in partnership with the Ateneo Art Gallery.

The exhibit and the book are revealing excursions into the man and his art, the literary medium delving intimately into the art inside the man.

The book goes beyond the modernist breakthroughs that Lee bravely ushered into Philippine art even as it sheds light on the quintessential artist who lived and died for his art and personal convictions.

Leopoldo “Lee” Aguinaldo was born in 1933 in New York to a wealthy Filipino father whose family’s dry goods business was among the top fifty corporations in the Philippines, and to a Russian–American mother. He studied high school under the rigid discipline of Culver Military Academy in Indiana. Upon his return to Manila, his father forced him to take up a degree in commerce. This was obviously meant to prepare him for the managerial task he was expected to perform in the family business.

It was the 1950s, the tall and dashing mestizo, who had been a passionate self–taught artist since he was a young boy, assumed the split roles of a corporate man by day and an artist by night. He gained notoriety for taking patrons of his early paintings for night cruises aboard his yacht, and also for his penchant for parties, expensive cars, and all the decadent pleasures that a young man from Manila’s elite could enjoy.

It was also during this time when he developed close friendships with Fernando Zobel, Roberto Chabet, Pandy Aviado, and other prominent personalities in Philippine art.

He resigned from the family business to pursue a life solely dedicated to art, much to his father’s chagrin. He continued his solo exhibitions and joining group shows while raising a family.

The renegade’s early works were heavily influenced by the spontaneous action paintings of Jackson Pollock. His style later evolved during his Linear period, when the impulsive renderings of his previous creations gave way to meticulously minimalist and geometric abstractions, without losing his preference for bold colors.

The consummate artist prodigiously created artworks until he underwent a major heart operation in 1994 which incapacitated him. In spite of Lee Aguinaldo’s long-established name in the art world and the high prices patrons paid for his works, the last four decades of his bohemian life were marked by a series of news-making evictions he challenged until his death.

Lee Aguinaldo died in 2007 at the age of 73 amidst relatively modest circumstances in a small house in Quezon City — far removed from the affluent and reckless youth who was heir apparent to the business empire and properties of one of the country’s wealthiest families.

The indelible legacy of the trailblazing Filipino artist is laid out for future generations in the book The Life and Art of Lee Aguinaldo which will be launched on February 3, 2010, 6:00 PM at the Ateneo Art Gallery. The book is the fourth in Vibal Foundation’s Arte Filipino series on masters of Philippine art and will be available at the retail price of P2,900 in bookstores. The Ateneo Art Gallery is located on the second floor of the Rizal Library Special Collections Building, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Call (632) 426-6488 for details.

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