Celebrating Federico Aguilar Alcuaz
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
Araneta Center, in cooperation with Galerie Joaquin, will launch “Celebrating Aguilar Alcuaz,” a 60-piece artwork showcase from the collection of family and art collectors with some being shown to the public for the first time.
Of the sixty rare works from Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, one catches the eye: Mosiac, a 17.32” x 21.65” mixed media obra using the color of various tediously rolled paper to create a single abstract masterpiece. A closer scrutiny of the neatly put-together pieces would tell the viewer that this work takes time to finish. The art circle calls this the Alcuaz-saic, referring to the late artist's unmistakable imprint, and one of the greatest contributions, to Philippine art.
“He is one of the most creative and artistic geniuses in visual art. He was a lawyer who insisted on becoming an artist. Alcuaz had an international career but rooted home. He used Filipino sensibilities in showing the world around him. His broad body of work encompassed self-portraits, ceramic sculpture, releif work and mixed media which bears a certain European flair that contributed much to its universal appeal. If you look closely, you'll see some noticeable figurative thing, like an apple or lemons (Still Life, 1979), in an abstract work,” shared Jack Teotico, managing director of Galerie Joaquin.
Other note-worthy works are the cityscapes series in which are shown places in their splendor: Manila Bay (1977) and New York (1978) among many others.
Born in June 6, 1932 in Manila, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz was an award-winning Filipino painter who exhibited extensively internationally and whose works earned him accolades both in the country and abroad. The sixth of eleven children of Mariano Aguilar and Encarnacion Alcuaz, he took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines from 1948-1950. Among his professors at UP were National Artist Fernando Amorsolo (Painting) and National Artist Guillermo Tolentino (Sculpture) as well as other pillars of Philippine art.
“He belonged to the second batch of modernists alongside Joya, Arturo Luz, Zobel and Juvenal Sanso. Among his rare works are the Tapestries that he made in the Czechoslovakian locale of Bruno, just ouside Prague,” Jack added.
Alcuaz then studied Law at the Ateneo de Manila University and finished his degree in 1955. Thereafter, he decided to pursue art on a full-time basis. Even while studying Law, he won the first prize at the 1953 UP Art Competition, first prize at the 1954 Annual Shell Art Competition and second place at the UP Art Competition, also in 1954.
In 1955, he received a scholarship grant from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to study at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, the same school where other great artists like Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Jose Ma. Asuncion and Felix Resureccion-Hidalgo have also attended. This became his initial base although he later moved to Barcelona. He won the grand prize at the Premio Moncada in 1957, the 1958 Prix Francisco Goya in Barcelona, first prize at the Pintura Sant Paul del Mar in 1961 and second prize at the Premio Vancell at the 4th Biennial of Tarrasa (1964) in Barcelona.
He later on became part of the group La Punyalada who would thereafter become the exponents of “neo-figurativism” and among the fore-runners of modern and contemporary art in Spain. The group most often frequented the Tertulla, a watering hole and hang-out place for such artists as Mozart and Picasso.
Recognition for his art extended beyond Spanish borders. In Paris, he was awarded the Diploma of Honor at the International Exhibition of Art Libre in 1961. He received the Decoration of Arts, Letters and Sciences award from the French government as well as the Order of French Genius, both in 1964.
Some of the most elegant nudes in painting is said to have been given life via Alcuaz's brush. Although he is known to have been faithful to basic classical disciplines, he was also famous for shunning theatrical gesture and dramatic color, instead, putting them in a more contemporary context. He is also known for his Tres Marias genre of lovely women of the 19th century as they went about their usual daily activities. Some art critics say that his influence must have come from master portraitist Diego de Silva y Velasquez's Las Meninas; still others see a tinge of Juan Luna.
Taking a life-long love affair with music and instilling his paintings with a quality akin to compositions and melodies, it behooves one to use a conductor's parlance in any attempt to grasp his works. He is remembered by his collectors and aficionados for his striking portraits, expressonistic abstract series and landscapes, or his experiments with media such as ceramics and textile, as he is equally remembered for his child-like pranks and practical humor.
In 2007, he was awarded by the Philippine government with the Presidential Medal of Merit for his outstanding accomplishments in Visual Arts and in 2009, he was unanimously adjudged National Artist nominee by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) after a three-year selection process. He was nominated in the same as year as National Artist for Film Carlo J. Caparas and National Artist for Fashion Pitoy Moreno.
Alcuaz's works are included in the collection of some 20 museums and major cultural institutions around the world today; including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid, the Gulvenkian Foundation Museum of London, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, the Museum of Modern Art in Krakow, and the Philips Cultural Museum of the Netherlands.
In his 55-year career, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz exhibited in leading galleries in Spain, Portugal, Poland, the United States, Germany, and here in the Philippines. His works have been included in auctions of prestigious auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's.
He passed away on February 2, 2011. “He would have been 79 last June. He'll be best remebered for painting still life of European images, his abstract art on canvas and his Alguaz-saic paperworks. He was named an Outstanding Manilan in 2001 and likewise bestowed the Chevalier of Arts & Letters, the highest distinction given by the French government to an individual. He gave his Barcelona studio in 1997 after 40 long years and despite opprtunities, he never gave up his Filipino citizenship,” intoned Jack at the close of an intimate media colloquy.
Federico Aguilar Alcuaz is survived by better-half Ute Gisela Schmitz and their three children: Christian Michael, Andreas-Frederic, and Wolfgang Matthias.
“Celebrating Aguilar Alcuaz” at the Gateway Suites is a tribute to a truly great Filipino artist and without a doubt one of the art events of the year. The week-long exhibit promises to be a wonder-filled and telling look into the mind of an artist par excellance. It is the third exhibition from masters of similar stature; following the highly-acclaimed mountings in the same venue by Betsy Westendorp and Juvenal Sanso. For an intersting read on the life and times of this exceptional maestro, check out Jack Teotico's autobiographical book 'Federico Aguilar Alcuaz' at any Fully-Booked outlet and/or Galerie Joaquin in San Juan.
For more information, simply call 723-9418 or email email@example.com.