This New Pardo de León Exhibit Shows Humorous, Emotional Spectacles

May 15, 2024



Elle Yap

The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway, the new exhibit at MO_Space, combines new and previously unreleased works of artist Pardo de León and finds the thematic connections she maintained throughout her artistic career.

Pardo de León’s Blue Girl series. Photo by Elle Yap.
Pardo de León’s Blue Girl series. Photo by Elle Yap.

The background of some of the artworks are exciting, with Jet Melencio’s write-up covering the interesting history of how one of the paintings, “Stitched Frog,” ended up not being shown in its 1989 exhibition in Riga due to the Armenian earthquake. The other painting of note, “Angel & Taxicab,” did not get exhibited due to the First EDSA Revolution. 

Cherubian Faces Skewed

The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway demonstrates Pardo de León’s interest in finding ways to flip old-fashioned angelic faces into strange contexts that finds the humor and emotions within what seems like “perfect” faces. Melencio describes the looks of the women in the paintings as “Caravaggio head,” but de León puts her paintings in stranger situations than Caravaggio ended up doing. 

“Stitched Frog” and “Angel & Taxicab” exemplifies these qualities well. The first painting has a person in a state of shock as a frog seems to stand on their head. It’s a close-up face of disgust and surprise, as if the person doesn’t know how to react to the situation. The face being mostly covered by this arrogant-looking frog gives it an even more absurdist edge overall. 

"Stitched Frog" by Pardo de Leon. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Stitched Frog” by Pardo de Leon. Photo by Elle Yap.

“Angel & Taxicab,” meanwhile, shows a person’s resigned look as they appear to be hit by a taxicab. It’s much less absurd than the previous painting, as de León captures the befuddlement of the person getting hit. Still, there’s a hint of deadpan humor to it, a Wes Anderson-esque understatement of emotion to what appears to be a painful event happening to the person.

"Angel & Taxicab" by Pardo de Leon. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Angel & Taxicab” by Pardo de Leon. Photo by Elle Yap.

The newer paintings also contain absurdist touches that feel like Pardo de León deliberately subverts the ideals of beauty by presenting them in incomplete or skewed perspectives. 

"Black Coat" by Pardo de Leon. Photo by Elle Yap.
“Black Coat” by Pardo de Leon. Photo by Elle Yap.

“Black Coat,” for example, are two paintings of a smirking woman’s profile from the mouth down, except that, as exhibited, the two paintings are put on top of each other to create mirror images. It’s very deconstructive, and put together, creates a distinct, idiosyncratic view of beauty as a whole. 

Abstracting Emotions

Other paintings in the collection have an abstract, mathematical methodology towards their approach. They don’t have faces, and yet they seem to be a delicately-painted, kaleidoscopic deconstruction of the paintings they come from. Looking at them feels like Pardo de León put her paintings through a funhouse mirror and painted the results. 

“Black Coat Series 1-3” and “From the Blue Girl Series 1-3” uses elements from their respective parent paintings and puts them in boxes, deriving new patterns from the differing motifs of the paintings. “From the Blue Girl Series” kind of looks like church tiles from a certain perspective, while the “Black Coat Series” paintings mimic the look of sand put in boxes at certain patterns. 

Details for "Black Coat Series" as shown in "The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway. Photo by Elle Yap.
Details for “Black Coat Series” as shown in “The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway. Photo by Elle Yap.
Details for "Black Coat Series" as shown in "The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway. Photo by Elle Yap.
Details for “Black Coat Series” as shown in “The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway. Photo by Elle Yap.
Close-up look for "From the Blue Girl Series" as shown in "The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway." Photo by Elle Yap.
Close-up look for “From the Blue Girl Series” as shown in “The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway.” Photo by Elle Yap.

“In harmony, she integrates floor patterns that structurally mimic the women in both composition and palette—a fugue faintly echoed in the pixellations of these ancient mosaics,” Melencio said of these paintings. 

Close-up of the face from "Angel & Taxicab." Photo by Elle Yap.
Close-up of the face from “Angel & Taxicab.” Photo by Elle Yap.

The Crack, the Gap, the Alleyway has a deliberate aesthetic to the works featured that subverts the expectations and standards of artworks not just in the artist’s past but in art’s past as a whole. One can derive a whole lot of humorous pleasure from the playful yet calculated choices that Pardo de León utilizes, and this exhibit showcases these motifs and themes well.

Related reading: Contemporary Arts in the Philippines: An Introduction

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