Thursday, January 21, 2010

IN RESPONSE TO GQ ] How to peruse the magazine's '10 best looks of the season' in Manila


The Plaid Weekender (top left). If you’re as fair-skinned as Matthew Goode (the guy in photos), go on ahead. But, as our style correspondent J.Lee Cu-unjieng told us many posts ago (The Style Advisory, September 12, 2009) when we heard about the resurgence of plaids, those checkered things usually look drab and harsh on brown skin on the Manila streets, especially when said skin is pimply and secretes oil like the Saudi Aramco. If you really have to, go for bright—but soft—happy colors. And no plaid flannels or Kurt Cobain will haunt you in your sleep—and he gon’ bring Courtney with him.

A Cooler Baseball Jacket. There is rarely an occasion to wear any sort of jacket during summer in Manila, unless you’re inside a really cold office building. Our group art director in the office looks good in a slim motorcycle jacket and doesn’t at all look contrived even when he goes out in the humid street of Pioneer. I guess the trick is slim, slim, slim: meaning for the wearer, the fabric and the silhouette.

The White Straight Leg jeans. Go! White looks so fresh and right in the summer. And for the love of Moses please give the skinny jeans a rest. Grown up men don’t wear skinny. But what about Iggy Pop or Mick Jagger, you say? First, you’re neither Iggy or Mick. Two: those are not grown up men.

The Grown Man's Sweatshirt. In this case, lose the undershirt. Layering it this way always looks affected in this weather.

The Multi-talented Denim Shirt (top right). We won’t go on a discussion about wearing denim on denim, how the fabric feels and why it looks hot (meaning mainit) and what your facial skin looks like against denim (there is a reason why they usually make bottoms with it). Let’s keep it to one word: No. Although the faux denim might work with light colored shorts.

A Bolder V-neck. It’s so gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And to pair it with another bold colored shirt! That’s uber gay. Still nothing wrong with that. But a word about the now ubiquitous V-neck: it should be a little roomy on the torso. It should skim the body and not strangle it—because that would be very gay, and in this case we do take offense.

The Fitted Cotton Sports Jacket. We dig.

Upturned Cuffs. Just to make sure it looks unaffected, totally unaffected, maybe have a two-year old fold it for you.

Grey Sneaks. Why, is grey the new black? Fine but you could also wear white, indigo, orange, red, beige. And don’t let the GQ editors fool you: this is not dressy nor could it aspire to be.

The High Tech Storm Chaser. For grown men, this is really less a fashion choice than a practical must-have. Especially in these days when the weather is as unpredictable as next year's 'new black.'

Photographs are, of course, from (Whatever happened to Honestly, I quite prefer that one.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

THE COLLECTOR ] Charlie Cojuangco on his thrill-gotten wealth

ESQUILLO,-ALFREDO-Bagong-HAng Bagong Herusalem, Alfredo Esquillo, from the personal collection of Carlos Cojuangco.

Do you remember what drew you first to collecting art?
Its colors and textures.

What was your first acquisition?

A Norma Belleza acquired in 1995. It’s a market/fiesta scene with vendors.

If you take a survey of your entire collection, would you be able to say if there is a common thread to them? Is there a particular style, school, you're attracted to?
I don’t limit myself or the collection to specific genres. What’s important is that one feels a connection to the artwork; if it appeals to the senses and tickles the intellect.

Has your taste in art/or what you look for in art changed over the years?
Yes, from flowers and landscapes to videos and installations.

Showing your personal collection, does this entail an initial sort of hesitation? Being a very private person, and art being a very personal inclination, do you feel at all that you are showing a bit of your private self to the public?
The reluctance comes from being compared to other collections’ particularly important, significant and interesting artworks and the criticisms. But I am confident that the exhibit will stand up to the critiques.

In this opening exhibition, you have chosen to show works that mirror or give commentary to Philippine society. Why have you chosen this particular group of your collection as an exhibition?
Because this field has captured my attention the most aside from the artistic and usual reasons, they document periods and events in our country (history).

You are officially opening Nova this January, what makes it different you think from all other art spaces?
We have yet to show that we are different in the way we work, although architecturally we want the audience (client) to feel at home and at ease.

First Hanging, pieces from the personal collection of Carlos Cojuangco is on show at the Nova Gallery, La Fuerza Compound, Pasong Tamo, Makati City.

Monday, January 11, 2010

BOOM! SPLAT! POW! ] The comics timing of Dina Gadia


“I love the raw feel of collage and the idea of making/composing something out of what already is existing,” says 23-year old artist Dina Gadia whose juxtapositions of personal drawings and cut-out images from comic books have earned a quiet following in the art circle. While, like every kid, she was exposed to comic books when she was younger, it was her boyfriend, the artist Allan Balisi, who gave her a pretty serious crash course on the slam-pow-splat world of Marvel et al. “He's the one really collecting comics and comix. I still have a lot to learn (to) catch up. I'm fascinated with how the creators of comics draw and tell stories, lalo na pag nalaman kung kelan ginawa yun, parang, ‘Ay ang galing, 1940s pa pala to?!’” Dina only started growing her own collection recently when she started working.

For Dina, the comic books are both medium and inspiration. “I use the artworks or images of previous generations as conceptual and formal techniques in order to create a new one by making fun of the images, twisting it and injecting humorous juxtapositions," she says. "To be ugly in some way. Like a cult film, I choose my work to remain in the 'so bad it’s good' variety. I want it raw, bad, and tough yet funny.”

A graduate of the Fine Arts course at the Far Eastern University (her major is Advertising). Dina is originally from Pangasinan. She grew up with her aunt, and once in a while gets to visit her family who lives just a boat ride away. “Real quiet place. Ang source ng tubig ay nanggagaling sa balon, livelihood ay farming at fishing, simpleng mga tao, cell phone ang latest technology. In other words, hindi pa sya masyadong civilized.” She now lives in Manila and just recently got her own studio space. “Madaming monsters sa studio ko. Andyan si King Kong, Godzilla, Homer Simpson at mga crustacean na kalaban ni Ultraman, cheap Halloween masks, toys, books at mags. Medyo makalat pa.”


Easily, one imagines the characters in Dina’s studio showing up in her works for the "Paper Panic" show (it’s a two-man-show with Mark Salvatus) which opens this Wednesday at 20Square. She started working on this exhibition since early December. “I work on my stuff pag-uwi galing trabaho at weekends.” She says the images come from books, comics, magazines. It breaks her heart, of course, when she has to cut up an image from a beloved comic book for a work. “Nakakapanghinayang pa rin lalo na minsan pag magaganda ang images. Nagiging attached kasi ako sa mga ganung bagay. Tinatago ko yung mga gusto kong images. Pag kailangan ko talaga gamitin, I take a picture of it at save na lang sa computer.”JG

Thursday, January 7, 2010

THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS ] As we officially close the holidays, a belated note on gift-giving

xmasAs Christmas as it got. There's red (the taka), there's green (the Kate Spade book), and a white satin ribbon 'wreath,' a gift from designer/painter Doltz Pilar.

There is a part in Michael Cunningham’s book The Hours where one of the three main characters, Clarissa (played by Meryl Streep in the film), is contemplating the perfect gift for a sick colleague. “You want to give him the book of his own life, the book that will locate him, parent him, arm him for the changes.” And I thought, wouldn’t that be the kind of gift that would blow any recipient away, sick or not. A gift that defines a person, or simply say that you know someone well, or have glimpsed a shred of someone’s often-masked truth.

But there it was, the first gift of the holidays: made in plastic and whose provenance is a store you never, even in your wildest of nightmares, thought of entering. Because you’ve always seen stores like these, a P99 store perhaps, a Japanese grocery of trinkets, as a dumpsite of similarly cheap, plastic objects—temporary, bereft of taste or history. And you look at it and think this was how the bearer defines you. You, a writer, a 36-year old gay man who cares about clothes. Even your oversimplified definition of yourself refuses to make a connection to this transparent plastic thing.

And you have been given similar assembly line stuff through the years: a baseball cap that bears the insignia of the clubhouse of the village where your boss lives (from your boss, of course), a calling card holder, body wash bottles of different scents, an early warning device. All from people who, if they had actually paid attention to you enough to think of buying you a gift, would know that you don’t wear caps much less play baseball, never care for calling cards be it yours or others, never wear scents except for the rare unpleasant odor from a shirt that was never taken out to dry in the sun. And you don’t own a car.

Surely these are not examples of adhering to a gift-giving tip that remains with me from so many years ago: Give something that will make the recipient see another side of himself, that side that you, the giver, sees. Did my boss see me as someone who could be running and kicking in the fields, pushing and shoving other men to get hold of a ball (not the kind that usually come in twos)? Did she see me playing with my friend, another gay writer, who she gave the same gift to?

Because it doesn’t take much EQ to guess what was going on in a thoughtless gift-giver’s mind: a) Puwede na ‘yan kay ano. b) I’ll buy twenty of those and decide on who to give them to later. It’s like grocery shopping for relief goods, and you, the recipient, are one of the faceless flood victims, a statistic. The only difference is that donors to tragedy actually give something the recipients need.

It’s like grocery shopping for relief goods, and you, the recipient, are one of the faceless flood victims, a statistic. The only difference is that donors to tragedy actually give something the recipients need.

What I just want to say, really, is if next year you want to participate in a gift-giving frenzy, it would be nice to find a little reason why you’re doing it. Are you buying him the paperweight because you want him to know you remember him? Or you want him to remember YOU? Sometimes this whole gift-giving exercise can actually be, ironically, a little self-serving. Are you just giving gifts because everyone else is doing it? If you buy all those little trinkets to give away—which most often end up in the piles of accumulated junk on someone's working table—aren’t you just contributing to the trash of the world, encouraging manufacturers of plastic whatnots to keep manufacturing plastic whatnots that will most likely end up in some island-size Smokey Mountain and take a million years to decompose? I guess I am looking for a little more authenticity in a season when we want to show appreciation. A sensitive method to all the Christmas madness. If this new approach doesn’t win you points from the guys in the office, at least you’ll save a lot of money.

Still, there are those rare moments that a gift, no matter how carelessly given surprises you eventually. A mug that a friend gave me one New Year’s Eve, a recycled gift, has remained the one and only mug I drink coffee from at home. Another gift, one of my favorites from this season, from my sister and her husband, puts another spin to 'reycle:' they gave me their old iPod whose early discovery--she was already using a new iPod before gift-unwrapping time--made me laugh. Some gifts, no matter that the giver has shared the same to other people, connect with you. Before Christmas, our copy editor, Pete Lacaba, gave all of us a copy of the newly reissued books by Quijano de Manila (Nick Joaquin’s pen name), “Reportage on Crime” and “Reportage on Lovers,” a collection of his journalistic pieces from the ‘60s. I got the former and just read the first story called “The House on Zapote Road,” from which one of my favorite films Kisapmata was based. The prose is beautiful, and it is a lesson in imaginative, literary reportage. It turned out to be, as Cunningham would prefer it, a gift that will parent me in this field called writing, arm me for the changes, and while I’m not sure that it “locates” me, it allowed me to get lost in a world outside of my own. Naks naman!

While I may have made this whole gift-giving thing sound complicated, the key really is quite simple: listen. The other night, a friend gave me a book by the late great comic George Carlin. The dedication quotes a line from page 79. “Joan Rivers turned out to be one of those people she used to make fun of.” He knew I love Joan Rivers, and love humor books since Woody Allen. It’s one of those gifts that didn’t need wrapping, and there it was, an uncontrived smile on my face.

So I don’t really buy that crap when people say it’s hard to give me a gift because it’s hard to predict my taste: we live together (if you’re family), work together, I blog, I facebook, I tweet, my life is out there, spelled out in, I would like to assume, entirely engaging prose. When I’m awed by something I see, I text it, talk about it, my hand in my heart, like someone’s just proposed marriage to me.

I always believed gifts are born from inspiration—a shirt that reminded you of someone, a beautiful bag that so impressed you that you wanted to share it, a crafty artwork you made yourself. Inspiration, not obligation. But if you do feel obligated, it wouldn’t hurt to remember this: the thought only counts when there was actually thought put into it.