GUS ALBOR says he is an apolitical artist. But when asked why he called his ongoing exhibition — on view at the Ayala Museum until Feb. 10 — Territory, he said it pertains to the Philippine-China dispute over the Spratly Islands.
“It’s got a double meaning. I’m very much affected by the issue of Spratly and the West Philippine Sea. I made a piece that discusses this concern or issue and it was my piece at the Venice Biennale in 2015. So far that’s my strong political work,” he told BusinessWorld at the sidelines of the exhibit’s opening on Nov. 26.
There are no works in the exhibition that explicitly show his political stand on the Spratly Islands, because, as he said, that piece was presented at the Art Biennale in Italy.
Besides, Mr. Albor, who is primarily and strongly associated with abstract and minimalism works, said: “I’m apolitical. It’s art for art’s sake.”
Territory occupies the first and third floors of the Ayala Museum and features oil on canvas paintings, mixed media works, paper-based illustrations, large-scale sculptures, and some installation art that show his partiality towards subdued colors (like brown, gray, and black) and conform to his style as an artist, minimalist. For the exhibit which he curated, he chose works he made from 1969 until 2018.
The artist said he arranged his works — on loan from collectors and from his personal collection — based on “my intuition and the relationship between the year and the images. It’s difficult,” he said.
While the artist chose what works to include in the exhibit, the words in the exhibition notes were not his, and he said he didn’t like some of it. There was a sentence that said “Albor’s oeuvre requests not to be tied to the American minimalists…”
“No it’s not my words, in fact I don’t like that line because minimalist art is not American, it’s more Asian, actually. I contradict the statement because it wasn’t based in my interview. I don’t like the writing,” he said.
Ayala Museum senior director Mariles Gustilo, calling Mr. Albor one of the country’s top abstract artists, said he has shown “consistent output of non-objective” themes and that his style is of “thematic parallel” with the museum’s founder, the pure abstract artist Fernando Zobel de Ayala.
While Mr. Albor, a recipient of the CCP 13 Artists Awards in 1976, is primarily known for his abstract minimalist works, there is a wall at the museum’s third floor that is dedicated to his portraits. Was it just a period in his career as an artist? He said no. “I can create portraits tomorrow if I want to. I like portraits also. It’s not just a phase.”
Mr. Albor called his exhibition of close to 200 works a “confession.” He said in a statement, “I expect them to see the evolution and how I explore my field; how I explore and experiment.”
He said he found his voice “through the years and from studying in art school.”
He studied Music and Fine Arts at the University of the East and received a British Council grant to go to the West Surrey College of Fine Art. His works have been shown in Germany, Italy, Japan, and France, among other countries. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman