Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

12/04/2008

Mad Science

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

Interviewing Louie deepened my appreciation for art. His point of view was so different as to challenge my own. His work is combination of rock 'n' roll fun and ghoulish delight. Enjoy :)

~*C

Text by: Carren Jao
Published: MEGA November 2008

Internationally recognized and locally rooted Louie Cordero’s artworks hold our morbid fascination

A STARK WHITE sliding door draws open to reveal Louie Cordero’s workshop. Like a blank canvas drawing forth a miasma of hue and horror, off-colored mannequins hang lifelessly on the walls and table; foreign B-movie posters are haphazardly tacked on the walls. On the other side of the room, organization reigns as the steady hum of Louie’s desktop computer accompanies the whirr of the electric fan, while a shelf of magazines and books stand guard by the door.

Finding inspiration high and low

Within these walls, Louie brings to life a ghoulish world inside and outside of himself, candidly confessing, “Na-mamirate ako. (I pirate.)” This audacious remark, met with this writer’s incredulous laughter, is quickly validated as Louie demonstrates the disturbing similarity an element of his painting has with a Brazilian movie poster hanging on the wall.

Stealing inspiration high and low- from buses and jeepneys to American cartoonist Basil Wolverton’s body of work, Louie meticulously takes pictures then cuts and crops them together to form a one cohesive piece on Photoshop. Working almost 13 hours each day, starting from 5 in the evening until the wee hours of the morning, Louie tirelessly translates this hodge-podge into a Frankenstein of a masterpiece.

Elevating low-art
Neon colors, zombie heads, innards and gore coalesce to form such works as Origins of Man showcased in his recently concluded exhibition entitled Absolute Horror at Fort Bonifacio’s Mo Space. His three-piece Smash the Cool (Death By The Most Holistic Influential Utopian Goals) nos. 1, 2, 3 segments electric-colored fiberglass mannequins in half with a 2D canvas rife with religious Filipiñana iconography. This is his commentary on self-taught Filipino artisans, whose works grace the signboards and public transportation vehicles plying the streets of Manila, their bid for perfection reflecting in his art’s almost otherworldly flatness.

Sobra akong na-iinterest sa kanila…[Ang style nila] mas natural, walang mantsa (Their style interests me so much. It’s more natural, without any stain),” explains Louie. Fine Arts programs are still strongly influenced by Western standards of education, already setting boundaries of aesthetics for those who undergo instruction. “I want to start all over again… [to learn to] not [be] scared about not knowing what I don’t know,” Louie adds.

Louie’s daring attempts at toeing the line of skill and naïve artisan finesse gives birth to fascinating works of art that refuse to be dismissed. Curious eyes are constantly drawn to its vibrant colors and are arrested by his refined linework.

Drawing a following
Louie’s courage has not gone unrewarded. His work has been exhibited in Malaysia, Singapore, London and the United States. In 2002, he won the grand prize for painting in the 8th annual Freeman Foundation at the Vermont Studio Center. He was also a finalist at the 2005 Ateneo Art Awards. The next year, he was honored with CCP’s prestigious Thirteen Artists award, sealing his place in Philippine contemporary art scene.

Even now, he continues to make waves, embarking on projects locally and abroad. He currently draws comic strips for ultra-hip Asian-American pop culture magazine, Giant Robot, called Fake Band Names, giving non-existing bands imaginary album covers. His illustrations will soon grace Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, a San Francisco-based idiosyncratic literary magazine hailed as a bellwether in the industry. He is also working with co-artist Gary Pastrana to showcase Filipino artwork to an international audience based in Hong Kong.

Steadfastly rooted
Though having tasted life abroad, this Islander-wearing artist steadfastly holds onto his Filipino roots, “Mas gusto ko dito. Dito ako kumukuha ng inspirasyon. (I prefer it here. This is where I get my inspiration.)” While boldly taking from the best of Western influences, he freely mixes it up with Filipino pedestrian and mystical elements producing a freakish spectacle uniquely Cordero.

Do people like it? “I don’t care; it’s up to them... It’s the viewer’s job to evaluate it... I can always go back to illustrating... Be a sign painter... Be a taxi driver,” says Louie with a bemused smile. His aesthetic may never fit into the conventions of beauty, but it has found an enamored audience inexplicably drawn into his bizarre realm.
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Catch more of Louie’s work this November in American Illustration, pronounced one of the most important and visually exciting annuals on illustration today.

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