In an age of alternative facts, fake news and malleable truths, artists gravitate toward truth, beauty, the poetry of constancy and endlessness. One of their go-to subjects is the nude figure in all its imperfect poignancy, what writer Nick Hilden characterizes as “both beautiful and grotesque, innocent and sexualized, free and controlled.” And artists salivate in investigating, exploring those mysterious rainbows in between, the country of the indefinable. In some cases, the artist obliterates the identity or the personality of the sitter to focus on the pureness of form of the nude figure—eternal in its chosen pose, the anatomy of changelessness.
But during these interesting times, many changes are afoot. People are metamorphosing away from their assigned gender identities and roles, shaking away the cultural expectations assigned by society or practically those who hold power. Constructs are crumbling in our era. Old, dusty beliefs are giving way to new and shiny faiths. The hitherto unchangeable nude figure is rebelling against rigidity, embracing a liberating dynamism, transforming into, well, what it authentically is. In this regard, truth may not be malleable, but it can be fluid, becomes a more inclusive truth over time.
This is the mindset behind Galleria Duemila’s “#exposedt” exhibition, which opens today and is on view until Nov. 8, 2021. With this show, Galleria Duemila not only wants to “feature the masterful artworks that depict the metamorphosis of the human body by the country’s top artists, but also to create a call to awareness of the rigid gender roles that are socially expected. How people are pressured to act, speak, dress and to conduct themselves based upon their assigned sex and, therefore, assumed gender identity.”
There is a tinge of irony in the title of the exhibition. The hashtag “#exposedt” is cited on social media when nudes or other bits of embarrassing personal information are leaked online (another factoid of our engrossing era). But the nude paintings and drawings of the artists curated for the show do not so much expose as tease the viewer with graceful ambivalence and ambiguity, and, in certain cases, inadvertent androgyny.
There lies the grandeur in the works of BenCab, Cesar Legaspi, Duddley Diaz, H.R. Ocampo, Helmuth Zotter Da Lavant, Jose Joya, Justin Nuyda, Lee Aguinaldo, Mauro “Malang” Santos, Onib Olmedo, Ramon Diaz, Rodolfo Samonte and Romulo Galicano which were specifically chosen to spark conversations about the issue of gender identity.
These artists were simply meditating on and ruminating upon the human body in all its electric, wondrously irregular shapes and forms, but in so doing, they were unintentionally foreshadowing the discussions of the future about identity (not just in terms of gender but in a more philosophical, psychological manner), who gets to identify whom and how.
BenCab’s piece, characterized by nudes and squiggles, depicts a harmonic tangle of bodies. A piece by Cesar Legaspi shows a shadowy nude; another is more abstract with figures disappearing into an angular world. Duddley Diaz’s subjects are masked, ceremonial, stripped of clothes and conventions. H.R. Ocampo’s pieces are all about lines and ambivalence. Helmuth Zotter Da Lavant goes the surreal route with an erotic amputee. Jose Joya’s males show off their muscular backs but conceal the more revealing fronts. Same with Rodolfo Samonte’s. One of Justin Nuyda’s pieces shows the subject embracing a rainbow. Lee Aguinaldo’s piece depicts a balancing woman, while Malang’s shows a woman bending to her bodily limits—can be metaphors for our unsteady, strenuous times. Onib Olmedo’s expressionist pieces are grotesque and yet heroic in their nudity. Ramon Diaz meditates on the human body and the summation of its parts. And Romulo Galicano depicts a subject who revels in the totality of her incompleteness.
For Galleria Duemila, “These works focus on the human body, exposing them online not only for the purpose of exhibition but also as a demonstration of the way that beauty can take multiple forms, captured and expressed by bodies stripped of the need to know or fix one’s gender.”
What great artworks do, no matter the time of their creation, is amplify what our current fears and desires are, the thoughts tempestuously thrashing in our heads. Artist, in effect, exposes more about us the viewers than the stripped figures on canvas or paper.