Books & Art

Silverlens Gallery Is Opening a New Space in New York

With inaugural solo exhibits from Martha Atienza and Yee I-Lann this September.
IMAGE JOSEPH PASCUAL
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We can't have a proper dialogue about art in the context of the Filipino diaspora without Silverlens Gallery. In its 18-year existence, the gallery has become one of the leading contemporary art spaces in Southeast Asia.

It has featured a robust collection of Asian diaspora artists, including the likes of James Clar, Maria Taniguchi, Mit Jai Inn, and Pacita Abad, among others. Now, it has found a new home in New York, a place where it can bring a broader representation of Southeast Asian, Asian Pacific, and Diasporic artists out in the west.

Located at 505 W 24th Street in Chelsea, the 2,500 square-foot space with its 20-foot ceilings will be opening this coming September. This trans-continental expansion marks a new chapter in the gallery's run. Much like its work here, Silverlens New York quarters will host gallery-curated and curator-led exhibitions, together with artist talks, panel discussions, film screenings, and events.

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“Opening a New York gallery has remained a consideration for us since 2004, but I felt invisible when I lived here then— the wrong gender, the wrong Asian, the wrong minority,” noted founder and co-owner Isa Lorenzo.

Lorenzo's co-owner, Rachel Rillo, also pointed out how important it was for their artists to have this new venue. She added: “The past few years have shown strong demand for Southeast Asian art in the US, so this felt like the perfect moment to expand to a global art hub packed with discovery."

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She added: "We are Asian, we are Latin, we are American, we are brown, we are queer—there is energy here for us and we are thrilled to show our artists in the world’s biggest market."

Silverlens New York will host Martha Atienza and Yee I-Lann for its inaugural solo exhibitions on September 8. These mixed-raced women artists work with their island communities to explore the phenomenon of identity, being, and culture. The gallery will also be participating in The Armory Show during the same month, displaying pieces from Mit Jai Inn, Pow Martinez, and Maria Taniguchi.

Martha Atienza's the Protectors

Film still from "Tigpanalipod (the Protectors) 11°02'06.4"N 123°36’24.1”E" (2022) by Martha Atienza.

Photo by Silverlens Gallery.

For this exhibition, Atienza explores the mediums of installation and video to examine and question the relational tensions between environment, community, and development. The Baloise Art Prize winner poses the questions, "Who owns the land? Who owns the sea?"

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She focuses on communities across the Bantayan group of islands, just north of Cebu. Bantayan has been caught in the crossfire between the tourism industry, landed elites, and the local and provincial government. Under the guise of promised prosperity, the island's idyllic perceptions and its media portrayal are two different entities. Atienza’s work challenges this process of imposition and the imaginations that are complicit in it.

Yee I-Lann's At the Roof of the Mouth

The detail on "YEE I-Lann, Measuring Project: Chapter 1" (2021) by Yee I-Lann, Digital Inkjet Pigment Print on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Paper.

Photo by Silverlens Gallery.

Known for her analysis of Southeast Asia's turbulent history, colonial and neo-colonial narratives, and critical theory, Yee I-Lann has one of the most distinct voices in the contemporary art scene.

For her exhibition this coming September, the visual artist looks at a craft community in Malaysia bound to the tourist market and how it has found opportunities for innovation. The village community has turned from fishing to weaving, which has helped reduce pressure on the Coral Triangle.

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Yee I-Lann has been collaborating with Sabahan Dusun and Murut weavers in the Keningau interior, as well as with Bajau Sama Dilaut weavers from Pulau Omadal, Semporna since 2018 to make tikar, which are traditional woven mats in Malaysia.

Here, she tackles subjects like the digital pixel and the tikar weave, traditional and contemporary motifs, popular song, bodily gesture and sound, photographic image, and script, among others. It's a "celebration of communities and their geographies, often at the peripheries, that give shape to the center," says the artist.

For more information, visit the Silverlens Gallery website.

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