While it’s been said before, the beginnings of Artinformal Greenhills (A1) is a story worth retelling. Put up in 2004, the gallery space was first, though not formally, a school; before that, it was creative director Tina Fernandez’s early childhood home. “I decided to take over the house and transform it into a place of learning,” she writes. “A place where artists could share their knowledge and hold workshops for anyone willing to learn.”
It was mainly to help further the appreciation of art, particularly abstract art, which sounds like it was often—and likely for the lack of words—scoffed at during the early years of the new millennium. “What’s that? My kid could do that! I can do that!” were comments Fernandez would often overhear in exhibit openings. And while not all have become so much more courteous toward art in general in the last 16 years, such public displays have certainly dwindled.
In equal parts, Artinformal’s drive and conviction to educate its audience helped debunk such misconceptions around art, all while giving artists free rein to explore and experiment with how they creatively express. None today would be so dismissive toward Agnes Arellano, for example, whose works extol the Sacred Feminine, nor would they second-guess her latest one currently on view at A1: an altar of penises, in tribute to the different facets of the phallus outside symbolic aggression—the vulnerable and divine connotations behind the distinct shape.
Arellano’s works are just one of the many threads woven into 16, a group exhibition of seven multigenerational artists gathered under the curation of Angel Velasco Shaw. Inspired by A1’s 16th anniversary this year, Agnes Arellano, Datu Arellano, Louie Cordero, Nona Garcia, Ella Mendoza, Jose Tence Ruiz, and Costantino Ziccarelli were asked to answer Shaw’s seemingly simple question: “What does the number 16 mean to you?”
What came after, the curator describes it best: “an onset of self-reflexive queries followed on its heels. Over the course of one year, each artist delved into personal and public cultural memory, existentialist queries, divinity, mathematical and creative intuition, and artistic play.”
The resulting works are wildly different in respect to the individual approaches the artists have taken; constant among them is the number 16. For Nona Garcia, her piece “I’ve Looked at Clouds” fill the area of a 16 x 16 grid, a consistent framework and constraint for her painting that she found liberating as she worked during the lockdown. In consideration of the 8-hour sleep cycle. Ella Mendoza’s “After the Sixteenth Hour, I Must Rest… or Not” is a collection of archival objects that people have used or engaged with after the sixteenth hour during the literal unrest that came with the pandemic. For Datu Arellano, the number 16 permeates throughout the components of his installation, whether as set height parameters or as frequencies of a church bell pealing in multiples of 16 (e.g., 256 HZ, 1024 HZ, etc.) Centered on the symbolism of destructive change and catastrophe that attend the Tower Tarot card, Datu Arellano folds the myth of Babel and the government’s BUILD BUILD BUILD agenda into his piercing reflection.
Decked with installation works and more, a visit to Artinformal Greenhills is worth considering for those able to. No need to hear more from us, though. As they have done for Becoming Trees, the artists have thoughtfully provided eloquent writeups of their thought processes and their works in the online exhibition catalogue, available for download at the Artinformal website.