Glued to the Wall
Mishandle with Care by Demetrio dela Cruz

Appropriation, the act of copying an existing work, has an established tradition in visual arts. Either a critique or a homage, the appropriated work exists as a historical nod and a contemporary gesture. It makes visible the influence and the transference of visual information (how painters influence each other) as well as the ways in which artists respond to the world around them.

As one of the foremost realist artists working today, Demetrio dela Cruz ventures into this terrain anew with Mishandle with Care, Boston Gallery’s exhibition for Art Fair Philippines. This is a continuation of what he began in his show, Fragile!, in which he appropriated the works of National Artists.

Just like in his previous show, dela Cruz brings to contemporary attention some of the iconic paintings of Carlos “Botong” Francisco, BenCab, and Vicente Manansala. This time, he includes the works of the foundational masters Juan Luna and Felix Resurrección Hidalgo as well as the National Hero Jose Rizal.

Through meticulously rendered detail, dela Cruz paints their works in striking verisimilitude, as if the viewer is actually looking at the works of the masters, with their respective color palette and brushwork. With this devoted approach of the artist, the works may be immediately seen as odes to the original.

While dela Cruz’s technique is remarkable, what gives these works the signature take of the artist is the collection of interventions—from straw ropes to stamps to pieces of cardboard to “FRAGILE” tape—he meticulously painted. The artist gives us a view of these works not as displayed in museums but how they might appear in storage or during transport. What these details suggest is the vigilance needed in protecting these national treasures. These paintings, at the end of the day, are made of materials prone to degradation.

They also add a conceptual layer, a comic relief in that the FRAGILE tape is an appropriation of Mauricio Catelan’s work, Comedian, in which the Italian artist affixed a banana on gallery wall using a duct tape. In this suite of works, dela Cruz makes it appear that the paintings are also taped on the wall in a trompe l’oeil style.

Mishandle with Care is an invitation of dela Cruz for the viewer to see the works of the masters not as precious relics in a museum but as living and vital testimonies to the spirit of the Filipino in its search for identity and meaning. Appropriating the works is one way to include them in the conversation of current issues, recovering them from the dusty corners of (art) history. In this exhibition, Demetrio dela Cruz celebrates these works with the respect they deserve as well as offering his own insights in the shaping and propagation of culture.

-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana

Art Fair Philippines

21 February - 23 February 2020

Address: The Link Makati City Philippines