NATIONAL ARTIST for Visual Arts Federico Aguilar Alcuaz is best known for his modernist abstract paintings in acrylic and oil, as well as sketches in ink, lead, and watercolor. He was also a sculptor, and he also did some ceramics. But his current exhibition at the National Museum, thanks to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) collection, features 20 of his works that do not involve any typical canvas, but are rather made of thick wool and dyes.
An art movement that makes use of a textile collage technique to form non-woven tapestry called Art Protis started in the late 1950s in Brno, the second biggest city of the Czech Republic.
Three Czech researchers, F. Pohl, V. Skala, and J. Haluz invented Art Protis together with another procedure called Arteg, a technology that puts together colored wool fleece with the aid of a needle-punching machine. It became a fashion trend, and later on people used the technology for wall art as well. The goal of the movement was to have an Art Protis item in every Czech’s home.
In the 1970s, the well-travelled Mr. Alcuaz was introduced to the art. He became fascinated by it, and soon he made many non-woven tapestries. In 1971, his works, along with those of Czech artists, were featured in an exhibit called Modern Tapestries. Some of the featured works are now on view at National Museum’s exhibit The Art Protis of Federico Aguilar Alcuaz.
Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Jaroslav Olsa, Jr. said during the exhibition’s opening that Mr. Alcuaz is the only substantial foreign artist to do Art Protis.
The Art Protis of Federico Aguilar Alcuaz features tapestries in abstract designs, splashed with colors. To make them, Mr. Alcuaz had to cut the dyed raw sheets into pieces, some of which he placed on top of each other creating a collage, and then pressed them together using Arteg technology.
The collection features Mr. Alcuaz’ works made in the 1970s and 1980s, which he designed in Brno, Barcelona, and Manila and brought to Vlnena factory in Brno to finish.
From afar the works look like abstract paintings, but a closer look reveals that the artworks are made of wool. And because the material is wool, it looks inviting to touch — except that the public is not allowed to do that.
Art Protis eventually lost its followers in the 1990s, but is now being revived by contemporary artists and appreciated by new audiences. Fashion brands and designers such as Jill Sanders, Marc Jacobs, Prada, and Calvin Klein recently used Art Protis in their products.
Alcuaz’ exhibition, on view until May 27, also hopes to revive the lost art. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman