With each day the new year progresses and the farther away last year gets, Goodbye to All That, a group exhibition curated by Gwen Bautista, gains part of its draw a posthumous gleam. And like the revered essay by Joan Didion from which the show takes its prompt, the collected works on view manage a daring, timely thing. By volume alone (the pieces total to about 40), Goodbye to All That is a patient capture of 2020’s varying shapes, a sober assessment with pointed wit.
Veronica Lazo’s Template of Concern is a biting case in point, where the termination process for companies has become a streamlined protocol to downsize. Celine Lee’s Untitled, part of her disinfection series, continues these notes of irony. It’s a descending monoprint sequence of the Chinese characters “Xie Xie” (translated in English as “Thank You”) repeated across 12 sheets of abaca paper—one for each month of the year. The gratitude becomes a wearying courtesy, as the bleach fades the ink further along the sequence.
The sentiment is shared. It keeps going. To the point of the group exhibition, the overload of information becomes harder to reconcile, as the dismissive way one regards 2020 as “that year” becomes too convenient a soundbite. There’s Pati, a sizable 3D matchbox set by Raha Rodriguez where the combustible red coating is shaped after the heads of children. There’s the exhaustive collage landscape of Poeleen Alvarez that measures the merits and the dangers of over calibrating oneself (Meditating on things human, all too human). On the other side of the spectrum, there are the geometric shapes by which Pepe Delfin’s pair, Down All Day and Up All Night, with such grabbing colors and precise symmetry, gives rise to an exacting ennui.
It’s a feat for a group exhibition of this size to cohere the way it does and then give more to it; most works can stand for the whole. While it’s become too easy to flirt with the idea of uncertainty or disorder, the inclusion of Miguel Lorenzo Uy’s Words from the Serpent casts doubt. As it is a playback of spoken words heard within The Serpent’s vicinity, then collected into data, Uy raises the question of whether disorder helps conceal a different uniformity altogether. Equally in the case of Indy Paredes’ Bended Plane: Looking for the Path of Gold, the series of accidents made by the continuous gold line, against the urban-colored shape, chart a map ill-planned by design.
There’s wisdom in Gwen Bautista’s aim for the show, because one will always be bound to something until it’s let go: “Thus, Goodbye to All That is a collection and summary of what all of us in the exhibition would like to leave behind.” Likewise, when it comes to the idea of 2020, there’s something to be said about how well the works retrieve it: “No memory is too small, trivial, or worthless,” writes Bautista again. And, like Didion, the show takes inventory, careful not to miss any detail, all to take in again so much about the times that feel so arbitrary—and for a while, possess it.
Artist list: Angela Silva, Atsuko Yamagata, August Lyle Espino, Celine Lee, Ches Gatpayat, Chicco Ramos, Dexter Sy, Don Bryan Bunag, Faye Pamintuan, Indy Paredes, Issay Rodriguez, Jan Sunday, Jed Gregorio, Jessica De Leon, Jomari T'leon, Jonas Eslao, Kelli Maeshiro, Koki Lxx, Luis Hidalgo, Margaux Blas, Miguel Lorenzo Uy, Miguel Puyat, Noelle Varela & Raymond Briones, Omega Projects, Pauline Reynolds, Pepe Delfin, Pin Calacal, Poeleen Alvarez, Raha Rodriguez, Regina Reyes, Renz Baluyot, Roan Alvarez, Roselle Perez, Shiela Molato, Teo Esguerra, Therese Nicole Reyes, Veronica Lazo, Victoria
Anchor photo: Renz Baluyot. Paalam!, 2020, Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 in (60.96 x 91.44 cm).