Higa sa Hangin • Leslie de Chavez

Nov 13 to Dec 5, 2018 • Tall Gallery


Many say that Pinoys often don’t go for the jugular, even in the most utterly confrontational of circumstances. We could tussle about whether that is the tack Leslie de Chavez takes in this exhibition. Or we could just brush off the question, since everything is quite laid bare,here, the artist’s ire registering in nearly sheer abandon.

Higa sa Hangin or San Juanico Bridge was choice torture method wrought on Marcos dissidents just as it dually serves as steely memoir of the Marcoses’ conjugal reign. Poet and columnist Pete Lacaba’s nth recounting of his own sordid experience with the interrogation method often carries less and less of the trauma with each retelling, yet the treachery remains no less etched on his now ageing body that weathered spasmodic beating from his loutish military captors.

De Chavez has in fact decried the lunacy of power in works past, but his critique has never solely taken aim at those presently enthroned . In 2015, his installation Apog was coded reference to peasant massacres at Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita, key turning points for past presidents Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo. Perhaps it really is when the artist fully assumes the sensate witness stand that he gets pushed past the brink of metaphor, yielding poetry to the violence of mock reality.

One senses this unequivocal tone in Aninag, Props, and Trigger Man, as well as in the deafening echoes of Pinalakpak. And though there may have been some whiff of subterfuge in Hide and Seen, Buro reeks of meaty stench, and Bangkulasi is absurdist horror. Tragically, the potency of parables will fade. And hope will breathe its last. And with that, all that’s left is some wimpy plea for mercy, eternal unrest be upon our weary souls.

– Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez


Manila-born Filipino artist Leslie de Chavez has been widely recognized for his incisive and sensible forays into history, cultural imperialism, religion, and contemporary life. Responding to urgent material conditions through his deconstructions of master texts, icons, and the symbols of his times, de Chavez strikes a balance between iconoclasm and an affirmative outlook to the relevance and accountability of art to one’s milieu. Leslie de Chavez has held several solo exhibitions in the Philippines, China, Korea, Singapore, UK, and Switzerland. He has also participated in several notable exhibitions and art festivals, which include the Singapore Biennale 2013, 3rd Asian Art Biennale in Taiwan 2011, 3rd Nanjing Triennial in China 2008, First Pocheon Asia Biennale in South Korea 2007. A two-time awardee (2010/2014) of the Ateneo Art Awards for Visual Art, Leslie de Chavez is also the director/founder of the artist-run initiative Project Space Pilipinas, in Lucban, Quezon. He is exclusively represented by Arario Gallery (Korea) since 2006.