Artist, educator Roberto Chabet, 76

Posted on May 02, 2013

ARTIST AND educator Roberto Chabet, 76, succumbed to cardiac arrest on April 30 at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center.

Relatives said his wake will be held at the Arlington Memorial Chapel along Araneta Ave. in Quezon City. He is survived by sisters Carmen Mesina and Milagros Garcia, nieces, and nephews.

A 1961 architecture graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, Mr. Chabet was born Roberto Chabet Rodriguez on March 30, 1937.

Most often the accolades come after a person dies. Fortunately for Mr. Chabet his former students had honored him through a year-long series of exhibits, talks and publications from 2011 to 2012 in Manila, Singapore and Hong Kong called Chabet: 50 Years.

The project was launched by King Kong Art Projects, Unlimited composed of Ringo Bunoan, Nilo Ilarde, Soler Santos, Mawen Ong and M. M. Yu.

Considered the "Father of Philippine conceptual art," Mr. Chabet’s greatest accomplishment was mentoring at least two generations of artists, said Victoria Herrera, Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) Visual Arts and Museum Division director, in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

These artists were mostly from the University of the Philippines where Mr. Chabet taught from 1970 to 2002.

"There he was both revered and feared, but more importantly remembered by his former students for his teaching style that challenged and pushed them towards critical thinking and experimentation beyond the boundaries of traditional art making," said Ms. Herrera.

In a 2011 interview with BusinessWorld, his former student Ringo Bunoan said "Chabet teaches by not teaching [like a Zen teacher]. He just leads you to a situation and lets you discover things and resolve things for yourself."

In 1968, he was appointed as head of the CCP’s Museum Department where he led the procurement of key pieces for the Visual Arts Collection, and established the 13 Artists Awards, according to CCP records.

Mr. Chabet received the 1972 Republic Cultural Heritage Award, the 1972 Araw ng Maynila Award for the Visual Arts, and the 1998 Centennial Honor for the Arts.

Among Mr. Chabet’s most significant works, said Ms. Bunoan in the 2011 interview, were his kinetic sculptures and installations in the 1970s, Russian Paintings, House Paintings, Cargo and Decoy, his plywood pieces, and Tearing into Pieces (a performance where Mr. Chabet ripped apart a book written by Manuel Duldulao).

The CCP is currently showcasing Mr. Chabet’s 1970 sculpture entitled Hurdling as part of the exhibit Site and Space: Modernist Trends in Sculpture at the Bulwagang Juan Luna, and two 2012 digital prints of the Mona Lisa for the exhibit The Mona Lisa Project at the Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo. -- Jasmine T. Cruz