The exhibition is comprised of Cruz’s largest and most ambitious works to date, inspired by the both the political and social forces driving daily life in the Philippines as well as the quotidian objects that shape the artist’s life Manila.
Cruz’s oeuvre is characterized by the highly physical application of materials: bold marks made with pigment and tubes of oil paint, scissor gouges in the canvas and streaks of bright spray paint that blur distinctions between abstraction and figuration, painting and sculpture.
While in the past he has begun his compositions with figurative landscapes and portraits that he subsequently obscures with swathes of paint, he has reversed and expanded upon this process in the new work. Beginning with an abstract composition, he applies thick layers of oil pigment that develop into forms of flower vases, seated figures, and colorful interiors.
The theme of reversal or inversion is reiterated in the content of the work. The Outside Life Inside Parisian Life is a reinterpretation of Filipino painter and revolutionary activist Juan Luna’s 1892 piece The Parisian Life, in which the silhouette of a female figure’s skirt follows a mirror-image of the archipelago of the Philippines. In referencing this work, Cruz addresses the legacies of colonialism in the Philippines and the frustrated prospects of future generations, simultaneously expressing disillusionment with the current state of affairs while contributing his own celebration of color, chaos, and texture. The Exploration of Alibis, depicting a ponderous figure sagging in a chair, reiterates the artist’s sense of listlessness, this time featuring a contemporary sitter.
In the still lifes and interiors such as Formless State of Distortion and The World of Bits and Pieces, the physicality of Cruz’s process is palpable in the sculptural quality of the paint. The expressive streaks, smudges, and clots of paint are the products of a highly performative practice.