ABOUT THE ARTIST
ELISEO ART SILVA is a contemporary artist internationally known for the Gintong
Kasaysayan Filipinotown mural, heralded as the “ largest, most famous Filipino American artwork” (Ling, Austin, 2010) in the country. His 1995 Filipino mural has been recognized as one of the 10 monumental murals of Los Angeles, and as one of the city’s 20 iconic murals (LA Weekly). Silva was born in Manila, Philippines and graduated with full honors at the Philippine High School for the Arts. He immigrated to the United States at 17 and obtained a BFA at Otis College of Art and Design. He received his MFA at the Maryland Institute
College of Art and was recognized with a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant Program Award.
In addition to LA, he has also worked on public art commissions in Philadelphia, Seattle, Alaska, NY, and Sacramento, CA. Silva designed the Western Gateway of Historic
Filipinotown; the Dap-ay learning circle with the terraced community garden at Unidad Park; and two award-winning floats for the Philippine participation in the Rose Parade in
xPasadena to commemorate the Philippine Centennial. Eliseo’s most recent commissions include a series of paintings for the Mabuhay Credit Union in the City of Carson, CA and the ceiling/wall murals and paintings for the University of Pittsburgh’s Philippine Nationality Room.
His paintings have been featured at esteemed places such as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Conner Contemporary in Washington, D.C., the Cue Art Foundation Gallery in New York, the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Plug-In Gallery in Canada, the Painted Bride Art Art Center in Philadelphia, Piramide Cultural Center in Mexico, Nehru Gallery in India, Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Edwin Ramoran is an independent curator based in Palm Springs, California where he is a co-founder of Bayanihan Desert. He is a recipient of The Andy Warhol
Foundation for the Visual Arts’ Curatorial Fellowship. He received a BA in Art History with minors in Ethnic Studies and Journalism from the University of California, Riverside and is an MA candidate in Art History at Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Ramoran was recently a director at Royale Projects in Los Angeles. He has held curatorial and managerial positions at cultural institutions in New York and New Jersey including Arkipelago, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, and Longwood Arts Project/Bronx Council on the Arts. He has been a guest curator at Kingsborough Art Museum, FAM/Filipino American Museum, MoMA/P.S. 1, Visual AIDS, The LGBT Center in New York, Art in Odd Places, Museum of Chinese in the Americas, PERFORMA 05 at Artists Space, Center for Book Arts, Corridor Gallery, Dixon Place, Dieu Donné Papermill and Gallery, Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, Boston Center for the Arts, Bronx River Art Center at BronxArtSpace, and Krause Gallery.
R E C U E R D O S ~ S O U V E N I R : New Works by Eliseo "EL1SY" Art Silva
“...Not all were asleep in the nighttime of our grandparents.”
Are we awake? Are we woke? Do we really know-know our history-histories? And do we genuinely practice-practice what we preach about the most hard-hard lessons we have learned or continually absorb and process after colonialism? Can this moment-moment serve-serve us-us-us?
The numerous discussions I have had with Eliseo Art Silva expressively broke ground with me personally after a visit to his studio and home in Corona, California. I am always trying to connect the dots. As my memory recalls, he and I met in the early 1990s through my cousin Ferdinand Agriam – visual artist and member of the then-active collective Grupo de Gago – somewhere in Los Angeles. I met Silva as an individual before ever seeing any of his artwork. Manong Freddie, as I have always called him in our Ilocano familial way, always made a strong effort to connect our Filipino artists and creative thinkers and doers, and cultural producers. I still remember Manong’s solo exhibition in 1997 at the artist-run alternative space in LA’s Historic Filipinotown called Puro Arte, which also organized an exhibition I wish I had experienced titled COMING TOGETHER: a group show of Filipino American painters. That exhibition included works by important artists Papo de Asis, Frank Espiritu, Marlon Fuentes, Maryrose Mendoza, Tita Pambid, Eliseo Art Silva, and Alan Valencia. Coincidentally, Puro Arte has been revived recently its founders Reuben Domingo and Napoleon Lustre with the thrust and energy of the fresh Filipinx creative lab KITAKITS led by Irene Suico Soriano and Tala Mateo. I am quickly reminded that Silva invited me a couple years ago to help with the first Larry Itliong Day exhibition. In all these recent cases, the artists engaged community with the help of the Pilipino Workers Center.
As we are pondering this moment-moment in 2019 to honor the hard work-work and successes and failures of the 1990s, it is not difficult to next wonder that with 30 years under our belts: how can we keep Filipino cultural activism and programming going on here? Yet, Silva has taken a different approach by announcing his forthcoming move back to the Philippines where he was born in Manila in 1972. While the artist has established himself here in the United States as a leading artist of the Filipino diaspora producing large-scale social realist murals and intimate wall paintings from coast to coast, he has been building community effectively and affectively. He constantly reminds us that our own rekwerdos have been shaped and overdetermined by so many factors and realities socially, politically, racially, economically, physically, emotionally, psychically. We can own objects that may jog our memory of a particular personal event, but what memories / recuerdos / rekwerdos / alaala can produce powerful objects capable of releasing potentiality, focus, and transformation?
Amid this context and numerous questions posed, this new exhibition Recuerdos - Souvenirs serves as what Silva has described as a two-month residency engaged with me and Pinta*Dos Gallery, founded by legendary progenitor and elder Linda Nietes-Little and her Philippine Expressions
Bookshop in San Pedro – closer to the Pacific Ocean so much closer to the Philippines. Here, you may experience and record a transitional energy.
For instance, the mixed-media work titled Spectres of Comparison provides us a center point and axis to the artist’s current and immediate frame of mind. Manila folders become an underpainting. Racist bodies get nativized, inverted, abstracted. Yet, the recognizable mascots of corporate fast food are united in color, faceless, seemingly innocuous and powerless clumps of crap. Everyone has their backs to us. Mirrors are large spoons of candy-coated opaque almonds providing no vanity, no reflections. Rooftops of nipa huts become smoking volcanoes spewing dark fecal matter. Silva chalked
“Boondocks” on the sliver of blackboard surface, while expressionist scribble invade the overall
scatalogical, explosive composition.
The strength in these new paintings is how they present resistance on many levels. The genuine voice of the artist proclaims struggle, revolutionary and personal. The most salient images may speak volumes about the history of painting and portraiture and empire. However, it is a resistance to painting itself that places these new works in a difficult spot. He has combined the complexities of
photographed archives, and narrative painting with the postcolonial thrusts to define nationality, home, and how to feel you belong somewhere.
What is Filipino? Why call it Filipino? How can we describe ourselves without giving it all away?
Why is it important to paint? What is not Filipino?
— Edwin Ramoran
Palm Springs, California, October 3, 2019