Distorted life and heightened sensibility were hallmarks of textile artist Pacita Abad, whose monumental works crossed the boundaries between color and textiles. In Southeast Asia, where museums collect his works, he got his first major public exhibition more than two decades after his death from cancer in 2004 at the age of 58.
“Pasita Abad” opens at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis on April 15 before traveling to the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, MoMA PS1 in New York and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The exhibition presents nearly 100 works and related objects, from full canvases to whimsical and playful portraits of the artist dressed in colorful clothes in front of rich textile creations.
Abad came from a family of politicians from Batanes, a remote island in the northern Philippines. The exhibit's curator, Victoria Sung, said the "mixture of cultural influences" reflects her many experiences and interests, from the Roman Catholicism of her youth to the textile traditions of Pakistan and Panama. The woman believes the unifying factor is what Filipinos call “bololoy,” a Tagalog word that means extravagance and includes everything from fancy bags to flashy street signs.
This visual touch was transformed into a work of art in Abad's first textile work, Baguio Fruit (1981-83), on a colorful table, where the artist painted a hand-painted corn fruit. The same spirit of abundance shines through in mature works like Subali (1983/1990), a figure inspired by Javanese shadow theatre. The 8+ foot work combines acrylic and oil paintings on woven and sewn canvas embellished with gold cotton, batik, sequins and ribbons.
A largely self-taught artist, Abad first traveled to the United States in 1970 to study Spanish law. Years later, Ms Sun said she had a creative awakening while driving from Turkey to the Philippines. While traveling with the man who would later become her husband, economist Jack Garrity, she began decorating their clothes. Ten years later, he launched what he called "Trapunto", adapting the word to the traditional Italian technique of quilting, combining color and quilting.
This method allowed Abad to create fully finished paintings, which Mr. Garrity liked to carry in large bags. The exhibition uses this frameless format by hanging feathers from the gallery ceiling, allowing visitors to view cross-sections of the works.
A gallery at "Pasita Abad" is dedicated to symbolic expressions of the refugee and immigrant experience. In his later paintings he used more abstract imagery to address social issues, such as The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling (1998), based on his personal experience with the breakdown of civil order in Indonesia. An avid scuba diver, Abad created As One Hundred Islands (1989), nearly 8 feet of sea-inspired sequins, gold threads, buttons, lace and lace.
The exhibition includes some very unusual works, such as Lost in New York (1992), a large stencil-like metal screen that serves as the entrance to Abbot's home in Washington, DC. In 1981's Meringue Mask I, the artist transforms the printed form into a freestanding work of art by adding paper, fabric, and thread.
Abad is the Hong Kong auction house where Sotheby's and Christie's sold the work. »
Towards the end of his life, Abad transformed Singapore's Alcaf Bridge into a boat-like walkway, painting it in shades of purple, green and blue. The bridge project, inaugurated in 2004, a few months before Abad's death, was mentioned in a photo and research exhibition.
Abad in Singapore is home to many collectors, says Michelle Yaw, Resident Specialist at Sotheby's, in part because it's "something that can be stored or viewed in our atmosphere". Abad is the Hong Kong auction center where Sotheby's and Christie's sold the work.
Manila's Leon Gallery set an auction record for the artist in June 2022 when it sold a 1982 oil-on-canvas scene from Batanes to a local collector for $176,000. That's $5,600 more than the pre-sale estimate. A record price for Abad Textiles in 2018. At Christie's Hong Kong 2018 sale, "Orange Punch", an abstract painting on canvas, sold for just under $90,000. Ms Yaw Abad said the job market is "always changing", but the new North American show "could signal a revival".
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