The Beauty of Steel

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Lifestyle Section
Monday, July 24, 200
By Constantino C. Tejero

 

Mostly these are slender elegant shapes perfectly poised in the air

One of the most ingenious artists hereabout is Pete Jimenez. A champion of direct sculpture inspired by Julio Gonzalez and Picasso in their expressive use of iron as medium, he has been fashioning steel discards into graceful forms that work as visual puns. This artist has a rich lode of creativity, energy and inspiration. Only three months since his previous exhibit and he was already presenting his latest output in “Bakal,” recently in Mag:net Gallery at Agcor Building, 335 Katipunan Ave., Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The prodigious energy can be gleaned from how much Jimenez wields his art in various mediums and excels in each. He is, in fact, not only a sculptor but a multimedia artist. An alumnus of the UP Artists’ Circle, he was a regional finalist in the 1998 Art Association of the Philippines National Centennial Painting Competition. He is also an award-winning TV commercial animation director and graphics designer, garnering the Best in Art Direction and Best in Animation awards for some of his projects at the 17th Philippine Advertising Congress.

Natural shape and size

 

Old NavyA Visual Communications graduate from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, Pete Jimenez demonstrates proficiency in visual communication by skillfully manipulating even the humblest objects such as discarded mechanical parts. Each artwork works as a semaphore that the common viewer can readily apprehend. The artist says he spends long hours working on a piece, spontaneously working on weekends only as he has a weekday job. He admits he picks up his ideas from movies, magazines, books and advertising, to which he is quite exposed, being manager of Optima Digital. Of his medium and technique, he says: “As much as possible, I don’t want to violate their natural shapes and sizes as I first saw them in the junk shops. Most of the time I just weld together several materials to come up with one piece. This is the beauty of steel or direct sculpture. It is very similar to doing collages.” He has consistently worked in and experimented with steel for over 10 years, one can say he has already mastered the medium. Whereas before it took him months to come up with a collection, now he is mounting two exhibits in half a year.

Miss Saigon

Verbal and visual grace

Apple of My EyeThe artist’s creativity and inspiration are obviously on display in the visual grace he can draw from scraps and in the graceful wit of the pieces’ titles and allusions. The punning, both visual and verbal, can be both literal and metaphorical-sometimes banal but humorous, often surprising. In “Apple of My Eye,” parts of a cement mixer have been shaped and welded to look like the human eye, and a real apple is placed in the center for the pupil. “Old Navy” alludes to that brand of clothing apparel, while “Pixels” references those square shapes that appear in digital photography and video display. “Askal,” of course, is shaped like a dog (from the colloquial asong kalye, or “stray dog”), while “Pusakal” is cat (pusang kalye, or “stray cat”). A funny yet poignant piece that’s also a scathing commentary is “Miss Saigon,” consisting of what looks like an antique warhead topped by a rusty steering wheel. This evokes the chopper on the rooftop toward the end of the Vietnam War, an iconic image appropriated by the musical “Miss Saigon.” (To push the punning further, we’d swear there’s no more apt venue to showcase these metal pieces than Mag:net.)

Pusakal

Earthbound yet flighty

HoneymoonThe mass of rusty metal may look heavy but these pieces’ essential grace and the titles with their associations make them feel buoyant-as contradictory as any in David Smith’s metal calligraphy and landscapes. Take, for example, “Worm’s-Eye View,” displayed in Jimenez’s exhibit “My Garage” in West Gallery in SM Megamall. With its density and volume, the bent rod looks positively earthbound, as if about to slip down from its base. Yet with the title, and after a second look, it suddenly feels lightweight. Mostly these are slender elegant shapes perfectly poised in the air, whether freestanding or wall-bound. Typical is “Same Feather,” like Brancusi’s metal rendition of a bird about to take wing. Often it is sheer ingenuity that makes the pieces seem lighter than they really are, as in the graceful vertical thrust and delicate construction of joined metal links in “Typhoon Belt” and “Tivo.” Sometimes a piece can appear random, such as “Warp,” in which metal plates seem to be haphazardly conjoined. Yet when one looks long and long, it slowly attains a beauty all its own.

Askal

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