Elmer Borlongan’s extraordinary eye for the ordinary in our cities

January 25, 2018



Angel Yulo

With an extraordinary eye for the ordinary, Elmer Borlongan re-presents the Filipino going about life. A tradition that goes back to: Damian Domingo, Jose Honorato Lozano and Justiniano Asuncion whose depictions of 19th century Philippine life have come down to us as Tipos del Pais (Country Types), but where the founding fathers of this style of painting left off Borlongan set off inspired by 20th century masters: Onib Olmedo, Danilo Dalena, and Jaime de Guzman breathing new life into genre with: color, form, and a trademark humor that elevates the familiar into Art.

Oil on canvas
7′ x 15′

Growing up in the backstreets of Mandaluyong, Borlongan illustrates a ‘mise-en-scene’ of the urban milieu of the underprivileged, the proletariat, and the have-nots of society. Notable in his works are his steadfast characters—the street vendors, sidewalk beggars, assiduous disabled men, and scenes that portray local traditions and cultural practices that engage society today. From the Marcos dictatorship, the EDSA Revolutions, to Duterte, Borlongan brought his art from urban to rural and back to the urban such that he returned to the place where he started but saw it anew, like the first time producing past, present and future merged seamlessly in his works. In all things, good and bad, Borlongan’s steady refrain is hope.

Walang Iwanan
Oil on canvas
3′ X 4′

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila opens 2018 with a major exhibition of Elmer Borlongan: An Extraordinary Eye for the Ordinary. Curated by leading historian and curator Dr. Ambeth Ocampo, the exhibit features a survey of Borlongan’s body of works in celebration of 25 years of his artistic career.

The exhibit features over 200 works from 1979 to 2015, by retelling stories of everyday life based on what he sees in his surroundings. The murals, paintings, and drawings that fill the walls of this exhibition reflect on Borlongan’s practice and continued commitment to his art, vision, and powerful visual narratives.

READ MORE: The Juggling Act of Metro Manila’s Urban Planners

The Metropolitan Museum of Manila’s Tall Gallery
“Elmer Borlongan: An Extraordinary Eye for the Ordinary” during installation

Elmer Borlongan: An Extraordinary Eye for the Ordinary is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila from January 22 until March 28, 2018, with the support of Pioneer Insurance and Asia Coatings Phils., Inc. 

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