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ROMEO TABUENA
(Filipino, B. 1921)
Hilltown Beat (Man Smoking a Cigar)
signed 'TABUENA 1979' (upper right)
oil on canvas
61 x 71 cm. (24 x 28 in.)
Painted in 1979
Provenance
Tere Haas Galeria, Mexico
Private Collection, New Jersey, USA
Post lot text
This artwork is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Tere Haas Galeria, Mexico

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

Lot Essay

Within Southeast Asia, the Philippines in particular have a very strong tradition of Cubism-influenced modernist painting in the mid-20th century. Some of its top exponents include Vicente Manansala and Anita Magsaysay-Ho who can be considered the forefront pioneers of modernism. However the next generation of artists coming to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Ang Kiu Kok, Jose Joya, Arturo Luz, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz and Romeo Tabuena among others are also highly critical in the development of the modernist visual aesthetic as we know it today.

Ang Kiu Kok, after Vicente Manansala, can be considered as the most expressive and complex Cubism-influenced Philippine artist, and in fact he was mentored by Manansala in his formative years. His works range from bold still lifes to landscapes to figures of Christ on the Cross with remarkable emotional depth despite their modernist technique. Displaying a highly unique compositional style which bears certain similarities to George Braque or non-figurative works by Fernand Leger, Ang was frequently invited to show overseas in the later part of his career. Still Life with Fruit (Lot 212) is a superb example of his tightly composed still lifes with bright color blocks of blues, reds and yellows, against a black background plane. His Cubist style is strongly in evidence and, from the relatively early date of 1967, still reveals traces of his direct influence from Vicente Manansala. However the placement of the fruit on the plates and the shadings of white and black to enable a certain sense of contouring, despite the flatness of the cubism, are characteristic of Ang, and continue to persist in later works despite his eventual cultivation of a more relaxed aesthetic as opposed to the formalist mode of the 1960s and early 1970s.

In the Drawing Room (Tres Marias) (Lot 213) is part of Federico Aguilar Alcuaz's acclaimed Tres Marias (Three Maidens) series. Depicting an idealized triumvirate of young girls, often clad in elaborate Spanish-style gowns, the Tres Marias paintings represent a romantic, softer side to Alcuaz's oeuvre, in comparison to his other strictly modernist still lifes and landscapes. Often taking place in drawing rooms or boudoirs, the world of the Tres Marias generally tends to be a feminine domain. However in In the Drawing Room, a male figure is unusually present, lending a touch of relaxed, urban masculinity to the scene, while one of the girls is only visible from her reflection in the mirror. The entire scene is charmingly and intimately presented, supposedly in a drawing room of the Manila Hotel, a Spanish colonial hotel and celebrated spot for social figures, politicians, artists and entertainers to gather.

Romeo Tabuena is best known for his depictions of local landscapes such as farms, carabao, nipa huts in oil and watercolor formats. Often rendered in jewel-toned colors and interlocking cubist-influenced shapes, his earlier works maintain a sense of translucency and fluid form while those from his later "Mexican" period are more opaque and have a stylized "blocky" quality which brings to mind the abstract works of another counterpart, H R Ocampo and the aesthetic of Mexican muralists. Hilltown Beat (Man Smoking a Cigar) (lot 214) is a particularly engaging example of Tabuena's later style, skillfully composed and executed despite its apparent simplicity. Depicting a man in a sombrero smoking a cigar, it expresses a lively joie de vivre.

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