Claudio Bravo: Sojourn in Manila

12:30 pm: I’ve been invited to live blog at MetMuseum Manila today. To make this experience richer, I’ve intentionally avoided researching on anything about the artist and exhibit. I also feel it’d be a great writing exercise for me; I’ll be more candid (I think), and you’d be learning about Claudio Bravo the same time I am!

About to leave for the museum. Let’s hope the Wifi there works!

1:50pm: Semi-fail. No wifi while we’ll be going around the exhibit. Broadcast will be a delayed telecast, folks! But no worries for now. I’ll be writing as I go along still.

Sooo… This Claudio Bravo is a Chilean portraitist who stayed in the Philippines for 6 months during the tail end of the 60s. I’m not a very big fan of portraits — I guess the same way I dislike having solo pics of myself taken — but the turnout here seems to tell me that he’s a pretty important guy. And to counter my non-preference for portraits, Cid Reyes has this to write about Bravo’s work:

To merely regard these portraits as the vanities of the privileged and the impeccably pedigreed is to miss out on their very real intrinsic aesthetic quality.

Mr. Reyes also used the words pathos and mimesis in the introduction; words I’m still learning to use in a sentence (and this does not count). Heeding his words, I await to enter Claudio Bravo’s Sojourn in Manila.

2:40 pm: Ms. Tats Manahan, the exhibit’s curator, is bringing us up to speed on Claudio Bravo. She had an air of wisdom around her, the type you can only get with extensive travel.

Interestingly enough, she says that the WWW hardly has any information on Bravo’s sojourn. It’s quite exciting to realize that learning about him today is a first for many. The ambassadors for Chile in the Philippines are here, coincidentally, to greet us.

2:50 pm: The first portrait is of Mrs. Tessie Luz, who was integral in the making of this exhibit.

Bravo’s influence in posing his subjects is very Baroque, very aristocratic.

Portraits of Marcos — woooow. He never worked through photographs. It was said that President Marcos didn’t like this portrait of his because it didn’t reflect his authority as much as he’d want to. He actually had his bodyguard stand in for him! Or so they say…


You can faintly see the 2 portraits of the Marcoses here.

 


Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
1968.

 

Bravo liked volume. He would hardly have any props in his portraits, so he’d have the ladies wear Balenciaga or ternos, and the big hair to match the equally voluminous couture.

Elvira Ledesma Manahan, 1968.

 

The portraits are teeming with Manila’s altasociedad — Loyola, Manahan, Ledesma, Locsin, Forbes, Tuason, Lopez…

Bravo likes painting his subjects in the Venus Pudica pose, which is classically a pose of shame. I find it incredibly beautiful and perfect for dalagang Filipinas — to me, they make the pose express a quiet power Filipinas always had.


Ma. Lourdes Araneta Fores, 1968.

 

Ms. Manahan cared to mention Bravo’s extensive knowledge on art history, and that’s why he never ran out on inspiration for portraiture. She bemoans the artists of today who just seem to cut and paste online, as if there’s no actual learning to be had.

4:00pm: The tour has ended. I’m so happy I didn’t get lazy to come here. It’s always such a treat for me to have actual guides when I visit museums, and Tats Manahan was a delight to listen to. The exhibit was successful in informing us on Bravo’s sojourn in Manila, but more importantly, it succeeded in making me want to learn more about this artist.

4:30 pm: Just finished going around again, taking it all in at my own pace and in silence. Claudio Bravo’s portraits are amazing; I’m reminded of Phil Noto and Tamara de Lempicka and J.A.D. Ingres with his work. It’s no wonder why Manila’s creme de la creme flocked at the chance to sit for him; his portraits are instant classics. My favorites would be of the Marcoses, Maria Luisa Prieto Lovina, and Margarita Cojuangco. The strokes are incredibly detailed, the colors mostly muted. Many seem to be unfinished, I don’t know if intentional or not. Nevertheless, the main focus of the portraits — the faces — are all painstakingly done.


Margarita delos Reyes Cojuangco, 1968.

 

Claudio Bravo died in 2011, leaving behind a legacy of indulgent portraits many of us can only imagine to own. Cid Reyes was right; the portraits aren’t so much about the subjects who commissioned for these, but the rare chance to catch this amazing artist immerse himself in our country and see its beauty through his eyes and hands.

Claudio Bravo: Sojourn in Manila will be at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila from September 18 to October 20, 2012 only. Come and visit, it’s more than worth it!
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