By Hannah Jo Uy
Images by Pinggot Zulueta
“I was driving along EDSA’s snail-speed traffic, a part of my daily grind,” says artist, Pete Jimenez, “when I heard the song on my car stereo.”
The eminent sculptor is, of course, referring to the ’80s chart topper from KC and the Sunshine Band “That’s the Way Aha-Aha I like It,” which he decided was the ideal name for his latest exhibit at Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea, on display until March 5. From this chance encounter on the radio, the retro anthem now headlines a visual exploration of found objects and various materials including resin, fiberglass, wood, brass, leather, glass, and, his trademark, steel.
Over the years, Jimenez has developed a body of work that pushed his boundaries as a sculptor, with his increasingly bold and unexpected approach in utilizing mundane and overlooked materials.
In all his shows, Pete has always integrated an element of play from conception to final execution. All of which features his trademark childlike curiosity, spontaneity, and unassuming persona dedicated to pushing forward the fun in art-making.
Behind each Pete Jimenez piece is a cup of hot, freshly-brewed coffee on quiet Saturday mornings. “I would start my day by looking around for materials in my studio with coffee in one hand. Since my art process is very spontaneous and unplanned, upon looking at some available materials, I can already visualize the finished piece. I make visual sketches in my mind on how to work on a particular art piece. But everything starts by spinning a few vinyl jazz records to perk me up. Then I end my day by dropping the needle for a relaxing jazz record by Art Pepper, Miles Davis, or Thelonius Monk, to name a few.”
The importance of the weekend also lies in the fact that he, despite being active in the gallery circuit, maintains a full time job. As such, this weekend ritual is sacred and has become central to his career as an artist. It also encourages the artist to maximize every bit of enjoyment he could get from his artistic process, which has resulted in light-hearted work that reflects his skill for wordplay, irony and sarcasm.
“One exercise I did was to try to experience what Pablo Picasso felt when he made his famous Bull’s Head, a piece that was spontaneously pieced together by using a bicycle saddle and a bicycle handlebar… two simple ready-made objects that he assembled in a short period of time.”
For his own version of Picasso’s Bull Head, he used a rusty corrugated bar and sourced vintage leather saddle all the way from Nueva Ecija. This is just one instance wherein geography proved to be a non-issue for Jimenez, as he also finished a heart-shaped work entitled Loving Arms, fashioned from wooden toy guns obtained from Bulacan. “The material helps in coming up with the idea or concept for a particular piece,” he says.
Jimenez notes the influence of Marcel Duchamp’s process in his works, especially with the famed French pioneer’s affinity for ordinary and manufactured objected that are selected, modified, and repositioned in a unique context to elevate the object into an art. Jimenez echoes this value in a more lighthearted manner drawing from details of his everyday life.
This is most evident in his recent interest in empty bullet casings. As a sports shooter, he would frequent the shooting ranges in Marikina. He was soon inspired to create works such as Bullet Points, a canvas riddled with slugs; MMDA art is the real thing, which is a painted concrete barrier made of resin and fiberglass, riddled with slugs, topped with old Coca Cola bottles; Farms? Or Arms?, with M16 bullet casings welded together to form three assault rifles mimicking trees with bullet casing leaves; and Magtanim ay ‘di biro, which serves as the artist’s commentary on the “tanim bala” issue at the Manila airport terminals.
The humor and fun within the work of Jimenez is a breath of fresh air, not only in the local art scene, but in society in general. The distinctively Filipino brand of humor he injects and the unassuming quality of his works showcase the immense value of an artwork that breaks free from the art world’s gilded cage by being relatable to a wider public demographic.
He challenges the idea of art as intimidating and immense by remaining light and acting as a wink or a nudge to the audience, tugging at the viewers’ heartstrings, tickling their funny bones, and leaving an impression on the important issues he opts to tackle.