By KRISTOFER PURNELL
Portrait by PINGGOT ZULUETA
Contemporary mixed-media artist and celebrated sculptor Gabriel Barredo passed away on Jan. 6 at the age of 62.
Gabby, as his friends and colleagues called him, was known for his creations involving everyday items such as bottle caps, wooden beads, and bed springs, and even household subjects like antique radios, refrigerator parts, and coconut husks.
He studied sculpture at the University of Santo Tomas, and has held solo exhibitions both in and out of the Philippines traveling to countries like Singapore, China, and the US as early as 1984. He also participated in a number of group exhibitions locally and globally, with international shows including Art Taipei 2008 and “The Islands of the Day Before” in Taiwan and the 13th Asian International Art Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
During the inaugural Art Fair Philippines in 2013, Gabby constructed a 30-feet long complex installation by utilizing smaller pieces and kinetic objects. One of his most iconic works is Asphalt, a mixture of toys, pop culture objects, metals, and other elements from English and Catholic culture—it was acquired by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) and stands in their museum in Berlin, Germany.
In 2016, in collaboration with Ballet Philippines, Gabby constructed Opera based on his 2015 exhibit at the Nicanor Abelardo Theater, with some of the exhibition pieces acquired by the Singapore Art Museum.
Gabby has received multiple awards for his talents including back-to-back gold medals from the Art Association of the Philippines Annual Competition for Painting (1981) and for Sculpture (1982). He received another gold medal in the 1984 Metropolitan Bank Annual Art Competition, and was the Grand Prize winner in the 1994 Globe Telecommunications Competition. Barredo was included in the 1994 Ten Outstanding Artists by the Diwa ng Sining Awards, and in 1998 was given the Araw ng Maynila Award.
Lea Salonga, a cousin of Gabby, said the following in a Facebook post upon hearing his demise: “Gabby the brilliant… reclusive… incredible. I’ll always remember him as handsome and funny. Creating treasure out of trash. Bustiers, purses, paintings, sculptures. Pieces I couldn’t always define, but could definitely feel.”