Books & Art

Remembering National Artist Larry Alcala With 'Slice of Life, Wit, and Humor'

This National Heritage Month, we celebrate the works of the beloved cartoonist.
IMAGE FACEBOOK/LARRY ALCALA/METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF MANILA

For nearly six decades, National Artist for Visual Arts Larry Alcala's comics were regularly seen in various circulated publications nationwide. He introduced more than 500 characters and 20 comic strips to us during his illustrious career.

His magazine illustrations from his signature series, Slice of Life, captivated audiences with its critical, spirited, and light-hearted depictions of daily Filipino life. While the reality of the circumstances he portrayed were unpleasant, his drawings were always zany, tender, and wacky. We also remember Alcala's illustrations for their colorful imagery, amusing commentary, and his random cameos.

This year's National Heritage Month (NHM), the country remembers the beloved cartoonist. The Philippine Postal Corporation (Post Office), for instance, issued special stamps, souvenir sheets, and official first-day covers featuring the NHM Slice of Life by Larry Alcala stamps just this month.

Now, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila will be unveiling its own Larry Alcala tribute exhibit. The exhibition is co-presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc., in collaboration with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and in partnership with SM and venue partner SMX Convention Center Aura.

The Larry Alcala: Slices of Life, Wit, and Humor exhibition poster.

Photo by METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF MANILA.
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Larry Alcala: Slices of Life, Wit, and Humor will feature archival reproductions of the revered cartoonist's works. Drawings, prints, and digital media from select artists and members of groups like Ang Illustrador ng Kabataan (INK) will be showcased here, as well.

University of the Philippines Diliman College of Fine Arts Professor Ruben “Totet” De Jesus provided the exhibition with some curatorial guidance. The award-winning illustrator had also written an essay that encapsulated Alcala's imprint on the visual arts a few years ago.

When Alcala was named to the Order of National Artists of the Philippines in 2018, De Jesus wrote: “Filipinos from all levels of society can appreciate Alcala’s art. His galleries are the dailies. There is mastery in his simplicity. There are messages in his images. Most of all, every Filipino is part of his family.”

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila will also host a series of educational and public programs from June to July dedicated to the memory of Alcala. One of these is the M Collab project, where the museum and its partners will call on participants ages 18 to 25 to share “à la Alcala” digital art contributions online. M Art Inspires, on the other hand, will be an online panel conversation on June 4. Prof. de Jesus, visual artist-illustrator Aldy Aguirre, and writer-speaker Carl Javier will each be attending the event.

By the end of June, the Metropolitan Museum will also be inviting younger artists to participate in its M Online Studio Studies initiative. Visual artist-cartoonist Manix Abrera will be conducting a storytelling through comics and illustration workshop.

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Larry Alcala: Slices of Life, Wit, and Humor opens tomorrow, May 31, at Function Hall 1, SMX Convention Center Aura, SM Aura Premier in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

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Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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