CultureMabini art meets pop art: the undervalued genres in...

Mabini art meets pop art: the undervalued genres in the art world


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At Philexcel Business Park‘s newly opened Art Center, art literally meets art. The very native and grounded Mabini art pieces from Jack Nasser’s Mabini art collection stand beside the vibrant and happy pop art pieces by renowned Brazilian artist Romero Britto. What do they have in common? Why does it make sense to place the two together in one space?

Mabini art is commonly looked down upon in the art circles since they are seen as rather workaday pieces, which are mostly seen adorning regular living rooms and dining rooms. Looking back, Mabini art started as artworks purchased from dingy art shops in the Ermita area of Manila, thus the little importance and esteem given to these pieces.

Asian Dragon - Basket of Flowers with Jars by CV Lopez, 1969, oil on canvas
Basket of Flowers with Jars by CV Lopez, 1969, oil on canvas

Pop art is just as commonly looked down upon since the genre uses mass culture such as advertising and mundane cultural objects, with little to no regard for the “fine” in fine arts. Pop art is also as mass produced and widely available in cheap prices, bringing down the value of the genre.

This is to say that Mabini art and Pop art share the same kind of treatment. They are both undervalued art genres—as opposed to the more sophisticated Mannerism or Romanticism—while in reality, they carry complex and rich principles in their underbelly.

Asian Dragon - Summer, mixed media
Summer by Romero Britto, mixed media

Mabini art directly showcases the reality of Filipino living, in forms of landscapes, rural and street scenes, still life, portraits, and even abstract. In fact, when Mabini art started developing in 1949, it has played a significant role in the development of visual arts in the Philippines. The fact that the Mabini paintings became easily produced and reproduced became the reason why art experts condemned the genre to be cheap art. But the first three generations of the Mabini movement, actually, were serious practitioners who wanted to showcase the Filipino living, and are just as worthy of historical documentation.

Asian Dragon - Seascapes at the Mabini exhibit
Seascapes at the Mabini exhibit

Pop art, too, had its own principles. When it started in the mid-1950s, it was widely interpreted as a reaction to the then-dominant ideas of abstract expressionism. It employs the use of pop icons, rather than the elitist elements, to convey a certain message grounded on irony. For the same reason that Mabini art was dismissed as cheap art, the easy reproduction of Pop art brought down its value.

But Ariella Nasser-Moskovitz, president of Philexcel, believes in the richer meaning behind these two art genres. This is why she found it only apt to put these two art genres on display at the the newly inaugurated Philexcel Art Center in Philexcel Business Park, Clark.

Asian Dragon - Britto, Ariella
Romero Britto and Ariella Nasser-Moskovitz

The Mabini art collection on permanent display at the Philexcel Art Center is a collection of her late husband, Jack Nasser, and boasts of different Mabini artists representing the different ways of Filipino living. From still life, human interest, to sublime landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes, the Mabini collection brings forth a wave of nostalgic patriotism in every Filipino, and an inspiring peek at the rural Philippines for every foreigner.

Asian Dragon - Rural Road by Gabriel Custodio, 1953, oil on canvas
Rural Road by Gabriel Custodio, 1953, oil on canvas

The Pop art exhibit featuring the works of Brazilian artist Romero Britto, displayed as a guest exhibit at the Art Center, gives a fresh and contrasting feel to the Mabini collection. Dominated by the theme, Happy, Britto’s collection tugs a smile in every onlooker’s face, reminding them of the playfulness and happiness of their childhood.

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