Felix Resurrección Hidalgo was a key figure in 19th century Philippine art. Along with the more popular Juan Luna, Resurrección Hidalgo became the torch bearer of a local elite seeking equality with and recognition from the citizens of its colonial master, at least in the realm of art and culture. His silver medal in the Spanish salon of 1884 served as a toast and validation of their agenda in Europe.
This exhibition by Ronson Culibrina revisits the works of Resurrección Hidalgo and gives them new frames, though still rooted in the place of Resurrección Hidalgo in Philippine art, history and society. The old master’s name, in the first place, bears words of key significance in the nation’s colonial past. Resurrección denotes regaining life and emerging victorious over death, a concept which resonates loudly in a society where Catholicism was the biggest legacy of its inclusion in the Spanish empire, embraced for its promise of salvation, redemption and renewal in the end. Hidalgo, on the other hand, refers to a nobility in the Spanish categorization of social classes, underscoring how the encounter with colonizers defined and became the basis for the nation’s current social hierarchies and inequalities.
Culibrina selects key pieces from the works of Resurrección Hidalgo and introduces interventions to further connect his old paintings with the contemporary times. Building upon earlier projects of appropriating the works of renowned masters, both local and foreign, Culibrina inserts a wide gamut of icons and images that open up reflections and discussions on themes like flow of goods and cultural influences, globalization, and the dynamics of the art market and economy, to name but a few. Here, we see Resurrección Hidalgo’s trademark Academic style deconstructed and transformed into busier and more restless imagery filled with references to popular culture and current issues.
The works in the exhibition particularly visualizes social media obsession, pop and iconic objects, and details from the works of other masters, such as Vermeer and Fernando Amorsolo, another key figure in Philippine art who was prolific during the country’s decades under American rule. These compositions are meant to trigger the audience to interrogate the category we refer to as “master,” its implications and relevance at this point in history with so many materials being appropriated and reworked, and with the past still haunting the present.
Ronson Culibrina (b. 1991) graduated from the Technological University of the Philippines with a degree in Fine Arts and has been exhibiting his works since 2008. In 2009, Culibrina won the Grand Prize at the 23rd PLDT-DPC Student National Art Competition and followed through with a series of other awards in various national painting competitions from 2010 to 2012. Culibrina had an exhibition called "Blood Compact" at Gallery Michael Janssen Singapore. He currently lives and works in Manila, Philippines.