Books & Art

These beautifully grotesque paintings reflect a sharp commentary on Philippine politics

It's your last chance to see Luis Lorenzana's breathtaking surrealist artwork.

Filipino artist Luis Lorenzana, is a self-taught artist known for juxtaposing classic portraiture with surreal imagery. Reminiscent of Yoshitomo Nara’s large-eyed little girls, Lorenzana is probably best known for his cartoonish portraits, full large eyes and full lips. There is something familiar in his grotesques. He is able to represent our dark past—colored by internecine conflict—as well as our surreal political present to make twisted, brutally incisive commentaries on the state of our country today.

Lorenzana recently discovered a large body of early works created around 2005 to 2008 hidden in his studio. After stumbling upon his old works, Lorenzana had no idea what to do with them. Evoking something similar to Jean-Michel Basquiat, this recently unearthed collection was shown to international art collector, Ken Hakuta, who is known for his strong interest in promoting art from the Philippines to an international audience. When Hakuta first saw Lorenzana’s early work, he was shocked and emotionally overwhelmed by the fresh, powerfully raw and emotional display of the artist.

Over the course of many months, this collector made the decision to acquire the entire body of work, referring to it as the Luis Lorenzana Archival Collection, which has attracted international attention by curators and art world professionals for its fresh aesthetic, witty social commentary, and its relationship to popular culture and timely political issues.

An exhibition and an accompanying book on this archival collection was launched this February. It demonstrates his visions and voices then that were never seen nor heard. Lorenzana deems these an eye-opener and reference point from where he began, and the direction he is heading as an artist.


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The book includes critical essays by Michelle Yun, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary art at Asia Society, New York, and Ryu Niimi, Director of the Oita Prefectural Art Museum, Japan, and one of that country’s leading curators of international contemporary art.  Fukuoka-Prize winner Ambeth R. Ocampo adds historical context to the collection’s anchor works that feature Filipino heroes; with a biographical essay by Lisa Guerrero Nakpil. Published by International Arts and Artists, a leading non-profit art touring organization in Washington, DC, the book will be exclusively sold at Leon Gallery or online at

The exhibition is running only until February 26, 2017 at Leon Gallery, Corinthian Plaza, Paseo de Roxas corner Gamboa Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City.

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Patricia Barcelon
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