Exhibit celebrates National Artist Abdulmari Imao’s life and works

“A Life Without Borders,” an exhibit on the life and works of the late Philippine National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Asia Imao, will open to the public at the 12/F Main Gallery of the Design and Arts Campus, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) on 9 June.

The exhibition provides a comprehensive introduction to the artistry of the renowned painter, sculptor, photographer, ceramist, documentary filmmaker, cultural researcher and writer. He is known to have popularized Philippine Muslim art and culture as original Filipino art.

The vast collection, on loan from his son visual artist Toym Imao, features approximately 28 paintings that champion the indigenous ukkil, sarimanok and naga designs, decorative motifs commonly used in Mindanao by the Tausug and Meranaw peoples.

A sculpture showing the sarimanok, a traditional design motif

There will be an assemblage of 38 sculptures that demonstrate Imao’s intricate wood carving and signature brass casting techniques. The pieces are situated at the center of the gallery to honor the Sulu archipelago, a nod to the home of the Tausug artist.

Also displayed are his sketches that walk the spectators into his creative genius.

Motivated by the art and craftsmanship of the late icon, scale models of high-rise buildings for Bonifacio Global City will likewise be on view. The works were designed by the budding student-artists under the college’s Architecture Program, conceptualized and created under the mentorship of award-winning architect Jim Caumeron.

Boat makers

Born in 1936 to a family of boat makers, Imao began to show interest in the arts at a young age. He studied at the University of the Philippines, where he was mentored by two National Artists Guillermo Tolentino and Napoleon Abueva. With a Bachelor’s degree in Sculpture, he further earned postgraduate degrees at the University of Kansas, the Rhode Island School of Design and Columbia University in the USA. In 1963 he became the first Asian to receive the New York Museum of Modern Art Grant throughout Europe.

Upon his return, he taught Fine Arts at the University of the East and accomplished several photojournalistic and scholarly research works about Mindanao. He promoted brass casting techniques, as seen in several public art installations around the country and eventually became a brass-making consultant of the United Nations.

For his contributions to Philippine culture and the arts, Imao was recognized with the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) award in 1968. He was likewise lauded with the Gawad Patnubay ng Sining by the City of Manila in 1985, the Gawad CCP para sa Sining in 1990 and the Presidential Medal of Merit in 2005. In 2006, he became the first Moro to be honored as a National Artist. He passed away on 16 December 2014 at the age of 78.

“A Life Without Borders: Abdulmari Imao, National Artist for Visual Arts” is produced by the Center for Campus Art and curated by CCA director Architect Gerry Torres. Exhibit hours are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the campus of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, 950 Pablo Ocampo Street, Malate, Manila. It will run until 8 September.  For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/BenildeCampusArt.