Group exhibit — CCP x West Gallery

The Mona Lisa Project


The Mona Lisa Project
Cultural Center of the Philippines and West Gallery
Bulwagang Fernando Amorsolo (Small Gallery)
4F, CCP Main Theater Building
24 April – 16 June 2013

Work documentation by Luis Santos


PRESS:
The Mona Lisa’s 57 faces at the CCP, Rappler


The image of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1503 – 07) has been the subject of many discussions related to art history, art theory, aesthetics, and the art market. It has been borrowed, reinterpreted, and ridiculed by artists and the media since the late 19th century. The earliest satirical take was made on a photo-relief illustration of the portrait executed by Coquelin Cadet for an 1887 edition of Le Rire (The Laugh). On this print, Eugène Bataille drew her a pipe with smoke circles emerging from it. The more popular of course is Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q (1919) when he drew a goatee and moustache on postcard reproduction of the Mona Lisa. Both artists did not just criticize the painting itself but also its popularity as a cultural icon, attested by its reproducibility.

The appropriation of the Mona Lisa, its image and what it represents, has since been an issue artists would attempt to explore, examine, and understand. This may happen in the form of a single work or a series of works done in succession or over a period of time. Perhaps the question is what makes the Mona Lisa a subject of these acts of appropriation? What makes artists want to take this image, seize, recycle, and claim it as their own?

Undoubtedly among the reasons is its stature as one of the masterpieces in Western art and how it has been mass-produced in different forms and contexts. Thus appropriation is in many ways a critique on the notions of originality, identity, and property. It has also been noted that the ambiguity that surrounds the Mona Lisa, has lend itself vulnerable to various reinterpretations – from its historical background, the sitter’s smile, position and disposition, and the artist’s technique (Da Vinci’s use of perspective and sfumato or blurring of lines). It has, thus, become a “terrain of infinite variations.

The works in this exhibit, The Mona Lisa Project, is a merging of varied interests on this iconic portrait. It began as a personal long-term project for Soler Santos, a visual artist, as a present for his wife, Mona, also a painter. He began a modest collection of works acquired from artist friends that integrate the image of the iconic portrait. He eventually continued to commission other artists of different styles and genres. The parameters Soler defined were open enough (limiting only the physical scale of the works) to allow each artist to engage with the subject from their respective aesthetic concerns.

For some, the project started as an attempt to “copy” but eventually disputing that same act. For others, the aesthetic philosophy inherent to the Mona Lisa provided various avenues to explore and assess. While other artists took the Mona Lisa simply as a preset format or a template to engage with using their own conceptual approach and distinct styles. Some artists opt to interpret the subject within present day conditions and concerns, either in an apocalyptic tone or pop and playful mood. The resulting collection is varied in style and provides a sampling of works by some of the most dynamic artists in the Manila art scene today. — Ma. Victoria T. Herrera




— installation view






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