Discovering Ateneo Art Gallery as a student
The first of its kind in the Philippines, the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG) is part of Ateneo de Manila University. It is a museum that showcases modern art, and it is back with PRINT(Ed): The AAG Print Collection Revisited — an exhibition that aims to help viewers develop a basic understanding of printmaking as an artistic medium. The exhibit presents basic printmaking techniques, such as relief and serigraphy, to the more experimental and hybrid techniques used by contemporary artists today. It also dives into the history of printmaking and how the AGG Print Collection has grown over the years.
This exhibition is curated by Pandy Aviado, who is not only one of the country’s pioneer in contemporary printmaking but also a visual artist and sculptor. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the print industry. With a career spanning four decades, Pandy writes a note about his curation of PRINT(Ed) and affinity with the AAG.
Almost 60 years ago, in the early 1960s, as a sophomore AB student, I discovered the Ateneo Art Gallery. It was located on the ground floor of the Bellarmine Hall. That summer, I had just finished an art workshop held at the Ateneo Grade School Gym. During the workshop, Mrs Araceli Dans introduced us to some basic art techniques and mediums. My very first serious artworks began here.
One of the things I did that seemed to impress everyone was a pen-and-ink drawing of a shanty house (barong-barong). My mother had this brilliant idea of giving it as a token to Fr. Kunkel, the then college dean. Fr. Kunkle then introduced me to Eric Torres, who invited me to visit the Ateneo Art Gallery.
The gallery had two parts then. The whole area consisted of three classroom-size space. Two-thirds of that was the main gallery. The other part was the storage room. It wasn’t just a storage room, though. It was also the curator’s office and the watering hole for members of the elite Ateneo Arts Club. It had a 24-hour air-conditioning system and a turntable with speakers. It was in this room that I stumbled upon several black “carpetas” that contained woodcuts and etchings. It was, to plainly explain, mind-blowing for a 17-year-old sophomore.
During Mrs Dans’ workshop, aside from learning about woodcuts and stencils, I was introduced to Rod. The following month, I got to visit his studio in San Andres. That started my involvement in the advocacy of fine printmaking as a major visual arts medium. I then had the privilege of working alongside Rod and had access to the Ateneo Print Collection.
Eventually, it dawned on me the leap of faith I would soon have to make. Was I prepared to dedicate the rest of my life to an idea (printmaking) for which I would probably receive no material compensation for at least 20 years?
As they say, a committed decision is when you do it regardless.
I received my first awards in the Graphic Arts Division of the Shell Student Art Competition in 1964. They were the etchings I did with Rodriguez and Emet. Mang Emet, as we all called him, was Rod’s sidekick. He knew how to make etching ground and was pretty good as a printer. He helped me when I did my first prize-winning aquatints.
I wasn’t the only student artist who was highly appreciative of the print collection. Butch Zialcita showed me the aquatints of Francisco Goya, and Louie Acosta showed me the lithograph of Ben Shan. Dinky Munda and I would spend our free time looking at the prints while listening to Missa Luba playing on the turntable. I also remember Pete Lacaba showing me Arturo Luz woodcuts.
It was also at this time that the favourite hunting ground for illustrations for Heights Magazine was the Print Collection. I also remember a 1964 yearbook that featured the Ateneo Art Gallery Collection. Zobel’s artworks were quite popular as covers of literary journals then. I had the privilege of seeing Zobel at work in Rod’s studio. He gave me several of his prints.
Every now and then, I visited Eric in the gallery’s storage room. We went over the prints individually and I had to guess the medium used. When he saw how passionate I was about printmaking, he gifted me with a book — Printmaking by Gabor Peterdi. Even now, I regard it as my printmaking bible.
In an effort to be independent and concentrate on printmaking, I had a small studio made at the back of our house in Quezon City. Attending Maning Rodriguez’s workshop was great, but it was tiring to travel from my house to the other side of the city in Malate.
I convinced my father to finance the fabrication of a small etching press. The press was custom-made, built from surplus machine parts. In the small studio and from the small etching press, intaglio plates of Joya, Chabet, Bencab and Ding Roces were editioned. The first one-man shows of Resty Embascados and Ray Albanos’ graphic works were also prepared and printed in this studio in the late ’60s.
I left for Europe in 1969 to participate in the Paris Biennial and to study art in Madrid. The first workshop I checked out was called BOJ. The workshop concentrated in lithography and was managed by a Greek artist named Dimitri Papaguergino. Coincidentally, his approach to art reminded me so much of Mang Maning’s. A litho of mine in the CCP collection entitled Molotov cocktail was made there. The highlight of my stay in Spain was when I worked as an intaglio printer at Grupo Quince. I later moved to Paris and became a printer at Edition Imprente.
When I left Europe, the Ateneo Art Gallery had already moved to the basement of the Rizal Library. The Art Gallery Prints Collection had continuously grown. I also remember showing my 8mm films there before leaving for Europe.
In 1989, I joined printmakers around Asia to be part of Fukuoka’s Print Project. I had a memorable stay in Fukuoka. I was chosen to represent the country in the 1989 Print Adventure in Fukuoka. My participation in the printmaking project connected me to other printmakers in Asia. I became friends with Long Thien Shih (Malaysia) and A.D. Pirous (Indonesia). We weren’t conscious of it then, but now I see that was the beginning of a group that will be eventually known as the Federation of Asian Artists.
I was part of several printmaking shows at the gallery before it moved to the main floor of the Rizal Library. One of them was a retro show of my old and new prints. Richie Lerma curated the show.
This show PRINT(Ed) is an exhibition to celebrate printmaking as a major medium, not only here but worldwide. It is an art exhibit meant to show the intimacy prints give to viewers. This show, as one would later realise, is a trip up and down the entire history of printmaking.