The cube as a form seems limited enough: put something inside it, paint each side of it and tadah! it’s a work of art. But in Cube at the Tall Gallery of Finale Art File (Pasong Tamo, Makati City) curated by Nilo Ilarde, the cube is revealed in all its possibilities, my only complaint is that there was too much.
Fill it up, or paint it on!
In Cube filling up the cube didn’t mean being uncreative. One only has to look at Juan Alcazaren’s “Hampering My Efforts” to see this to be true, as it always is for his body of work. This is true too of Ed Bolanes’ “Retirement” which seemed like an easy decision to fill in a transparent cube with remnants of a career as dentist. But this was also about the compartments within the cube, filled exactly with machines, teeth molds, painkillers, a random plastic glass maybe. In the end it was impossible to actually see everything that was there, the layers of glass compartments rendering retirement to be about layers of a life lived in loyalty to a career.
Raul Rodriguez’s “Die Inside” and “No Formaldehyde for Miro” were standard cubes with rattan frames, the former in black and the latter in gold. “Die Inside” is a cube with another cube inside it, atop charcoal, with masking and electric tape, a seeming paean to death within. “No Formaldehyde for Miro” seems like an ideal space to live, where the inside of the cube is alive with color and wonderment. Hanna Pettyjohn’s “DFW, In Transit” meanwhile is a non-descript standard-sized delivery crate, the inside of which reveals what looks like a papier-mâché head of a middle-aged man, wide-eyes, slightly frowning, pursed lips. That this is familiar and normal to us, can only keep it painful.
Painting on and attaching things to the cube was also mostly unconventional here. Annie Cabigting’s “Paper Weight” is a 50 x 50 x 50 hunk of a cube that’s covered with shredded paper, an environmentalist up-yours to all us paper wasters. Louie Cordero’s “No Piucha” is a happy box of a cartoon monster, his arm extending from the base of the light blue cube, with a finger pointing to nowhere. MM Yu’s “Asleep” meanwhile was a wonderfully quiet cube, with a marble print of interspersed reds and blues and greens, almost featherlike, as calm as sleep.
Tearing the cube apart
More than the cubes filled with things, what’s here are cubes that are torn apart, not literally of course, but in terms of playing around with the idea of it. Kiri Dalena’s “White Cube” for example is made up of neon tubes that form the structure of the cube but allow its sides to be imagined through the darkness that the light creates. Nikki Luna’s “There’s someone in my head but it’s not me” also uses orange neon to create a cube, though this one was made to look like a house with a root. Against one side of the cube in white neon is written: “You lock the door and throw away the key”, which renders the cube as a possible space of love and its contingent abandonments.
Eng Chan’s four cubes are functional lamps made distinct from each by its materials: a bathroom drain here, a floor drain there, ice trays for another. What is interesting about this work is that its existence is only completed when the lamp is turned on, and individual shadows are cast against the wall. This might also be the value of the Pete Jimenez’s two works, “Sketches” and “4 x 4”, both in dark heavy steel and both highlighting structure more than anything else. The former is a five-piece set of small cube structures with no sides, while the latter is a pair of solid steel cubes against each side of which are four holes. For these two works the weight of the material is all important, and the effect of that seems to be the point.
Which is what Pablo Biglang-Awa’s “S” can take pride in, too. Here is a cube with top and one side cut off, revealing what is a letter S covered in red candle wax that spills out and spreads randomly on the cube floor. That it is this image that’s disconcerting which doesn’t have a big reveal ironically renders it more surprising, if not affecting a little more discomfort than most.
Ah, but who else can tear a cube apart like Roberto Chabet? “Box” is a medium density board torn open to form a flat cross on the floor of the gallery. Painted in red, blue, yellow, black and white, it was an interesting centerpiece to a room filled with cubes, seeing as it was anything but. In light of this huge piece, it was difficult to appreciate Patty Eustaquio’s and Maria Taniguchi’s “Odyssey”, 12 photographic swatches flat on the floor, the imagination of two cubes too much of a stretch, really.
The unconventional and successful cube
Which is to say that this exhibit is filled with unconventional structures and objects that are cube-like but would generally not be seen as such, i.e., a metal safe or a TV set, even a freezer. The latter is Felix Bacolor’s “Almost Blue”, a wonderful imagination of the possibility of creating a perfect cube of blue ice. There was too Aba Dalena’s “Excubisinist Cat (Terra Cruda)” a sculpture in unfired clay of a cat wearing a cube, and playing with it on its tail and nose. Mawen Ong’s “Boxed” is a huge red cube that’s actually made up of columns of shoeboxes. It is a presence and nothing else.
The better cubes that shined in this exhibit were surprisingly smaller works. Jucar Raquepo’s seven small cubes an interesting rendering of the small toy cube and all its possibilities of being filled in, collaged on, rendered unfamiliar and almost losing its shape drowning in mixed media. Raquepo’s “Cube Construction” though was to die for, a cube created through plastic toy parts, a toy cube of toys, the wonder of toys times two, the one thing I wish I could afford to buy.
And then there was Soler Santos’ “Untitled” which was 20 wooden light boxes of the same size, all reflecting brightly images of tinier pieces of cubes in wood, some seemingly excess of a bigger project, others random cube objects of the same size, all being exhibited in these cubes. Now that is a meta-cube if there ever was one, an artwork meta-critiquing itself as it does the rest of the cubes that surrounds it.
Only Lara de los Reyes’ “Selected Works” could beat that, as it doesn’t quite paint a cube or fill it in, as it does create one using oil paint scraps. With a title like that, it also ended up questioning our notion of selected works in particular and exhibits in general. So really, cubes never looked this good.