[Blueboard] PAG: THE BIGGEST LITTLE ROOM
Ramon E.S. Lerma
rlerma at ateneo.edu
Tue Jun 1 14:10:07 PHT 2004
The Ateneo Art Gallery warmly invites you
to view its new exhibition
P A G
The Biggest Little Room
1 June - 17 July 2004
Main and New Galleries
"Ateneo Art Gallery pays tribute to modern Philippine art's biggest little
To fill an empty wall in her Promotions Incorporated office, Lydia
Arguilla decided to hang a few modern paintings. She had no intention of
opening a gallery then; but In light of the Conservative vs. Modern art
debate between Guillermo Tolentino and Victorio Edades, which appeared in
Sunday Times Magazine and This Week, and the protest laden first Art
Association of the Philippines (AAP) Annual Art Competition where the
Moderns romped off with the top prizes, the works on her "Feature Wall"
soon began attracting curious audiences.
With the initial success of the feature wall, Arguilla mustered enough
courage to establish a commercial gallery in 1951 that aimed to promote
modern art. She called it the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG).
The Neo-realist group of Romeo V. Tabuena, Vicente Manansala, Hernando R.
Ocampo, Victor Oteyza, Cesar Legaspi and Ramon Estella, who espoused a
new way of looking at and presenting reality through their art, naturally
gravitated toward the PAG. Every weekend they met there to talk about the
latest art news, to exchange personal discoveries relating to techniques
and materials, and to critique each other's work.
The second wave of artists who joined the PAG was an equally impressive
group. Nena Saguil was among the first to be invited to participate in
group shows, as was Arturo Luz. One day in 1952, Fernando Zóbel walked in
and presented his portfolio to Arguilla. She was so impressed that she
immediately invited him to exhibit. David Cortez Medalla used to visit
the PAG with a group of writers. Enticed by the artworks he had seen
there, he taught himself how to paint and eventually exhibited his works
as well. When Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Arguilla's good friend, transferred
residence to the Paco district, she frequented the PAG and was also
invited to exhibit. Other young modernist soon joined them: Cenon
Rivera, Lee Aguinaldo, J. Elizalde Navarro who initially exhibited
drawings he did in Japan, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr., Mauro Malang Santos and
The third wave of PAG artists like Manansala's star pupil Ang Kiukok,
Edades' daughter Joan Edades, and Rodriguez's son Manuel Rodriguez, Jr.
also held their first exhibitions in the by then legendary little room in
the late 50's. Other early converts to modern art like Galo Ocampo and
the father of modern Philippine art Victorio Edades were also invited to
exhibit at the PAG.
The PAG impacted the Manila art scene. It left the Manila public in a
state of puzzlement over non-objective artworks by Oteyza and Joya, for
example, and the "savage" art of Medalla. In the beginning they where
ridiculed by the public who were still under the spell of Fernando
Amorsolo's romantic ideal of artistic beauty. But in time, the gallery
Arguilla set up became the best-known postwar address in Manila. The
gallery became the meeting place for the city's intelligentsia. It did
much more than broker art - it served as the headquarters of the
Philippine avant-garde movement.
Inspired by Purita Kalaw Ledesma's seminal book on the PAG, "The Biggest
Little Room," this exhibition, which brings together works that had once
appeared there - key pieces from the permanent collection of the Ateneo
Art Gallery, as well as objects loaned from private collections -
celebrates the little room on a seedy side-street in Ermita, which became
a big room for the beginnings of modern art in the Philippines.
The exhibition runs through 17 July 2004.
"vIRGILLIO AVIADO: AUTORETRATO, Selected Graphic Works 1950-1990" a
retrospective show featuring fifty prints and drawings by the celebrated
graphic artist, is ongoing at the Inner Gallery, until 26 June 2004. An
exhibition catalogue is available.
The Ateneo Art Gallery is located at the Ground Floor, Rizal Library,
Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Museum hours: 8
am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday; 8 am to 12 nn, Saturday; Closed on Sundays
and holidays. For inquiries, please contact Yolly Arambulo or Joel de
Leon at 426-6001, ext. 4160.
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