CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES
CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard Pasay City
February 22–May 24, 2020
In the final print of the series “Predella,” 1984, soft pinks and yellows mellow the hostility of a skirmish between protesters and riot police. A stone structure, on top of which a woman decked out in Filipiniana sits upon a throne, bifurcates the composition, while the confrontation, flanked by the silhouettes of two armed men, fills the work’s bottom half. The same mild pastel coloration illuminates the cracks in the edifice above the clash, making visible its fragility. Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi’s viscous color-printing technique and use of hue to annotate set her works apart from those of her contemporaries. Guided by the liquidity of ink and the softness of the roller, hues find their places: Printmaking becomes painting.
This retrospective spans five decades of Gelvezon-Tequi’s work, from paintings on silk, linen, and paper to colorful prints bearing imagery taken from medieval manuscripts, folk and talismanic motifs, and arcade-game machine interfaces. Since before she became the first female recipient of the Thirteen Artists Award in 1972, Gelvezón-Téqui has ingeniously crafted worlds where angels and rockets meet (The Second Horseman of Death, 1980), where pilgrims follow the spectacle of what looks like a movie production (The Fourth Horseman of Death, 1980), and where Christian devotion weaves itself into the contemporary lives of overseas Filipino workers (The Second Joyful Mystery, 1983).
The colors in Gelvezon-Tequi’s works seduce and provoke. At the end of the exhibition, a large painting in vivid orange, Vision of a Bodhisattva, 1999, catches the eye. In it, the former Philippine president Joseph Estrada plays with virtual reality goggles while an impoverished mother of three watches on from along the painting’s margin. The sheer garishness of the hue emphasizes the depravity of political power and privilege. Gelvezon-Tequi’s acute sense of the allegorical and the commonplace is here in full color, exuberant in its grace and wit.