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'Kuwentong Kutsero' Exhibit Highlights the Kalesa’s Symbolic Role in Philippine History

TDR Projects of The Drawing Room Gallery in collaboration with the Intramuros Administration presentes Kuwentong Kutsero, a solo exhibition featuring the works of Ged Merino, a Filipino artist based in New York City. The show opened its doors to the public on February 17th, and will be running until April 14th at the Museo de Intramuros (formerly known as the San Ignacio Church) in Intramuros, Manila.

 

In his last year of studying Fine Arts at the Philippine Women's University (PWU) in 1987, Merino was among the Top Five in the ASEAN On the Spot Painting Competition. He was then awarded the Jackson Pollock Memorial Scholarship to study at the Arts Student League in New York, and opportunities to work with galleries shortly followed. In addition to being an artist in the city that never sleeps, he was also able to gain experience working at the Met Museum's Merchandising Department. 

In 2009, he decided to work full-time as an artist, and has since been traveling from New York to Manila and to Bogotá and back for work on art exhibits. Bogotá is also where Merino and his Colombian wife vacation every year.

 

 

Merino likes creating contemporary art objects using discarded materials and uses various types of textiles to bind the objects that he works on.

Since he is fascinated and inspired by history and the narrative of people, he conducted research for Kuwentong Kutsero, and traveled to different areas in the Philippines to meet and talk to kutseros (coachmen) to learn about their stories, traditions and challenges. He focused on the kalesa (a horse-drawn carriage used in the Philippines), and sourced various materials from the different places that he visited for his works.

The title of the exhibit can be interpreted in two ways: the first is associated with the tall tales told by the kalesa drivers themselves to while the time away, and the second is to look at it as an informal history of this form of mass transportation and their working-class proprietors.

 

“I like humanizing the subject matter and what inspired me in doing this exhibit is when I learned about the narratives of the kutseros themselves. I like using colors and using different types of fabrics. For my art installations here, I wrapped the discarded kalesas and other parts of the kalesa such as the wheel and the spokes using repurposed textiles that were donated fabrics by fashion designers based in New York who donate the materials that they do not need,” Merino explains.

The exhibit features three different kalesas which were constructed with discarded and fabricated parts, and wrapped with different types of textiles. Using repurposed fabric, the artist transformed the kalesas and its other parts, such as the wheels and their spokes, into colorful works of art. Furthermore, videos showing interviews with the kutseros, the routes and tours of the kalesas, etc. are projected on the white walls of the museum space.

 

 

The exhibition reminds us of the rich history of the kalesa as a means of transportation that dates back to the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, and still remains today. “I want to convey a message to people that the past is still very much alive and that the kalesa is a symbol of our Filipino spirit and ingenuity, says Merino.

 

Kuwentong Kutsero runs until April 14, 2019 at the Museo de Intramuros on Arzobispo Street, Intramuros, Manila. 

To know more about the artist, visit www.gedmerino.com or follow @gedmerino on Instagram.

 

Photos courtesy of Ged Merino and from The Drawing Room Contemporary Art