31 March 2009

Platoon of Strangers

The exhibit features Mark Valenzuela's recent paintings and modular installations of terracotta. Constructing individual yet obscured human head, the artist engages the theme of conformity as a form and expression of social alienation. The works reflect on how individuals within society or specific social formations end up becoming strangers to one another.

To consciously emphasize the conceptual contrasts between society and the individual, Valenzuela juxtaposes the military term "platoon" (referring to a subdivision of a company of soldiers and connoting a body of people working together towards a specific mission), with the term "stranger", which denotes a person unfamiliar or external to one's own circles, a "persona non grata to our being" as the artist terms it. Valenzuela poses the question of whether we indeed know or understand the people and individuals whom we deal with on a daily basis, in various circles and formations within which our lives revolve in.

The artist utilizes the traditional and non-industrial medium of terracotta to reflect on the ironic phenomenon of alienation within contemporary society, where wayward industrialization, widening social disparity and globalization has created diverse situations where "groups of people co-exist without knowing each other fully" as the artist observes. The repeated production of terracotta heads reinforces the concept of the social machine churning out more members. The symbolic covering up of their faces denotes the act of turning the familiar into the unknown. What is being obscured are faces, the stamp of individuality.

Mark Valenzuela first one-man show War Zone was held at Galleria Duemila in 2007. The artist participated in 19 group shows since 2002. He is the recipient of a Sinugdanan grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and shortlisted for the Ateneo Art Awards.

Exhibit on view at Galleria Duemila.
Open to the public: April 4 to 27, 2009.