“The narratives that carry the bearings of contemporary art Philippines are anchored on locality and context, and contained within a regionalism that continues to negotiate myriad histories and colonialisms. Within these histories are the furrows of a diaspora that produced artists who referenced the Philippines and their adoptive countries through various methods. It is against this backdrop that we endeavour to locate the flow of artworks that Pacita Abad produced in her lifetime.
Pacita Abad: A Million Things to Say at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD) Manila, the first exhibition of Pacita Abad’s work since her passing in 2004, signals the artist’s posthumous return. In presenting Abad’s oeuvre for the first time in over a decade, the exhibition proposes a productive re-construction of Abad’s categories of self and a critical reassessment of her place in art history, amidst a cultural landscape that has changed drastically in some respects, and in others, not at all.
In the small catalogue that accompanied her 1984 exhibition in Manila, she begins by writing: ‘it is my hope that through these paintings the viewers will be able to get a better understanding of the world.’ The exhibition, held at the Museum of Philippine Art (MOPA), marked Abad’s return to Manila after a twelve-year sojourn that took her to sixty countries around the world. The 120 works that were on display at MOPA-among them landscapes of her home province of Batanes, portraits of Dinka tribesmen and Cambodian refugees, and street scenes in Dhaka and the Dominican Republic – served both as a testament to the breathtaking scope of Abad’s itinerant life and a preview to what would become an incredibly prolific practice. Throughout her life, Abad produced over 5,000 works that traversed a diversity of subject matter – from tribal masks and social realist tableaus to intricately constructed underwater compositions and monumental abstractions, each one bursting with colour, detail, and texture.
The exhibition Pacita Abad: A Million Things to Say hopefully allows for a more detailed consideration of her work and its expansive contemporaneity. Abad’s understanding of the idea of a global preceded many of her contemporaries, a complex and nuanced understanding that was often disguised under the weight of colour, material, and her own theatrical persona. In 2002, Abad articulated her approach to making art: ‘I think global, not racial. I go out, learn the wider horizon, develop and evolve…’ Such a reflection can only come from Abad’s itinerancy and her ceaseless fascination with and willingness to learn from those outside of her own world view – plotting variables and coordinates across a map while shaping a multiplicity of narratives rarely seen today.
(excerpt from ‘I Have One Million Things to Say’ by Joselina Cruz and Pio Abad)