Under the Bells: Cian Dayrit, Kawayan de Guia, Nona Garcia

When 16 Oct 2019 - 29 Feb 2020
Where Pintô International
431 East 12th Street, 5B
New York, NY
United States

Opening Reception: October 16, 2019, 6-9pm

ABOUT “Under the Bells” – Faith, religion, and spirituality are powerful forces in the Philippines. Catholicism, the archipelago’s predominant faith, colors all aspects of local culture. This exhibition brings together the work of three artists to demonstrate not only how the country’s Catholic history provides fruitful subject matter for artists (be it from a position of critique or careful analysis), but how this history and its iconography becomes indigenized, adapted, and filtered. The work of Cian Dayrit, Kawayan de Guia, and Nona Garcia confronts the paradoxes inherent in religion, calling into question the purity of singular religious identity.

The exhibition’s title refers to how the lives of Filipinos have been organized around religion. For 400 years, Filipinos have lived debajo de las campanas (i.e., under the bells) of the church. As the Spanish colonized the archipelago, they consolidated dispersed peoples into pueblos with the church at the center of town life. Church bells would dictate the day’s events and summon villagers to worship. The parish priest often wielded dominant power in the pueblo, and so Filipinos have lived “under the bells” of Catholicism, figuratively and literally. As the works of Dayrit, de Guia, and Garcia demonstrate, religion often becomes uniquely hybridized “under the bells” as Catholicism blends with pre-Hispanic traditions of spirituality.

Cian Dayrit’s textile works engage with faith-based symbols to analyze the images, objects, and institutions that dictate what power “is.” In his works, created especially for this exhibition, Dayrit monumentalizes the anting-anting, a type of charm often inscribed into handkerchiefs carried by Filipinos. Intended to protect the carrier from harm, Dayrit embroiders his works with an imagined iconography and Latin words, creating a constructed sense of mysticism and spirituality.

Kawayan de Guia’s surreal, tableaux-like paintings emerge as “portraits” of indigenous figures in museological settings. Based in the Cordillera mountain range north of Manila, de Guia’s paintings engage with the changing nature of this region in the face of modernization and development, as well as the region’s spirituality. The figures are surrounded by European paintings, globes, and bulols, pre-Hispanic representations of spirits or ancestors carved in the Cordillera region. De Guia’s works consider the fallout when ancestral spirits collide with Western culture.

Nona Garcia’s haunting light boxes are the latest iteration of her ongoing x-rays of statues of saints. Catholic families frequently place saintly icons in their homes, which offer the devoted paths to spiritual and physical healing. Garcia seeks to reveal the materiality of the statues, while bestowing upon them a sense of otherworldly presence. She channels the traditions of Philippine spirituality, may it be pre- or post-colonial,  into her surroundings and takes an objective look beneath the surface of venerated objects.

About Pintô International
Informed by the mission of its parent institution – museum and non-profit foundation Pintô Art Museum in the Philippines – Pintô International is the New York based entity overseeing Pintô’s global exhibitions and programming. Directed by Dr. Luca Parolari, the organization is committed to supporting the careers of pioneering regional contemporary artists and fostering global connoisseurship for their distinct artistic practices. Pintô International presents quarterly exhibitions, an artist residency program and a monthly Pintô Sessions event series at the East Village location.

Dr. Joven Cuanang, Pintô founder and president, states: “For over three decades, it has been my unwavering vocation to undertake the promotion and support of contemporary Philippine art in my home in Manila. As Pintô builds its global constituency, we are looking to New York’s uniquely cosmopolitan, progressive arts community to join us in building a dialogue around a platform for the contribution of living Filipino artists.”

Image courtesy of the event organizer.

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