Four years in the past, artwork connoisseur-patron and playwright-director Floy Quintos discovered himself repeatedly saying that phrase like an invocation on the chapel of St. Joseph the Worker in Victorias City, Negros Occidental. It was his fourth go to, however he discovered himself nonetheless staring on the “Angry Christ” mural by the late Filipino-American artist Alfonso Ossorio.
The centerpiece of the chapel, the 60-square-meter liturgical mural options a picture of a frowning Jesus with a giant flaming coronary heart and outstretched arms, his toes crushing the serpentine Lucifer. It occupies the sanctuary wall and ceiling and has been a thriller to the trustworthy because it was completed in 1950.
“The painting was frightening (for the locals and sugar workers) back then. Parish priests over the years actually thought of erasing the image for something traditional,” mentioned Quintos.
The query of what led Ossorio to color the novel picture intrigued Quintos. “This has got to be in a play,” he informed himself.
The result’s UP Playwrights’ Theatre’s newest manufacturing known as “Angry Christ,” which can run April 26-May 14 at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater in University of the Philippines Diliman.
Besides Ossorio, the chapel’s design is credited to world famend Czech-American architect Antonin Raymond. The 4 mosaic panels on the façade, the mural on the outside wall, some wooden carvings within the inside, the pulpit’s steel plate decorations and the enameled tabernacles had been designed by the Belgian baroness and liturgical artist Adelaide de Bethune.
Ilonggo sculpture-carpenter Benjamin Valenciano is credited for the picket crucifix, the Stations of the Cross and the pictures of Joseph and Mary. All can nonetheless be discovered on the chapel.
In Quintos’ play, the younger Ossorio shall be performed by Nelsito Gomez; De Bethune by Stella Cañete Mendoza and Banaue Miclat-Janssen; and Valenciano by Felipe Ronnie Martinez.
Ossorio was in his early 30s when he painted “Angry Christ,” beneath duress from his father, Spanish sugar baron Don Miguel (Alexander Cortez). His youthful brother, Frederic (Randy Villarama), who assisted Don Miguel within the household sugar enterprise in Negros, supervised the development of the chapel and offered the supplies Ossorio wanted for the mural.
“But Frederic and Alfonso weren’t at the same place at the same time. After the chapel was finished, Frederic left Victorias, went to the United States and got married. He only came back when the mural was finished and continued managing the estate. Nagkasalisi pa nga yata sila,” mentioned Quintos.
Ossorio spent solely 11 months in Victorias, from mid-1949 to mid-1950, and by no means got here again. Based on information, the Ossorio youngsters didn’t even spend their childhood years in Iloilo however in Manila. They simply went there for holidays from their dwelling base in Padre Faura in Manila.
“Alfonso was not Ilonggo, as many described him. He was a Manileño. But in a later interview, he said he’d always be an American,” mentioned Quintos.
Prior to “Angry Christ,” Ossorio had exhibited in New York galleries, and his works had been praised by critics. “[Salvador] Dali is kid stuff compared with [Ossorio’s] weird demonic visions,” wrote critic Emily Genauer, as quoted by author Tats Manahan in her Rogue journal article on Ossorio titled “The King of The Creeks.”
“And that’s what fascinated me more. It was a big mystery, a strange experience for someone who was very, very rich and detached from Philippine life to come to a sleepy plantation town like Victorias. How difficult it must have been kung ang sphere mo international artists,” mentioned Quintos.
Described as “The Man Who Had Too Much,” Ossorio had mother and father who separated when he was younger, which can clarify why his earlier works had been about misplaced youngsters. His father lived in Connecticut whereas his mom, Doña Maria Paz Yangco, lived within the United Kingdom.
He left the Philippines when he was solely eight years outdated to review in a boarding faculty in England, and later in Harvard for Fine Arts. “With a Catholic upbringing, he was also struggling to reconcile those values as an artist and being gay,” mentioned Quintos.
He was forward of his time when it comes to approach and imaginative and prescient; a handwritten notice revealed he was not blissful within the plantation. Quintos mentioned it was the wrestle of a man making an attempt to speak, as Ossorio couldn’t reconcile himself with the Baroque model then so widespread with Catholic spiritual photos.
A religious artist, Ossorio continued painting smaller works at night time after laboring on the mural by day. These are collectively recognized the “Victorias Drawings.”
In these 11 months, Ossorio left in New York his then newfound love, ballet dancer Ted Dragon (performed by Josémari José), which added to the sense of loneliness.
“We know when he came to Victorias that he was struggling with his sexuality and he felt he was not taken seriously as an artist,” mentioned Quintos. “That’s why my main concern in writing the play was, what was going on in his mind while he was painting his masterpiece?”
As Manahan put it concerning the elusive Ossorio: “The more you know, the less you know.”
Never the identical
But one factor is definite: after “Angry Christ,” Ossorio the younger artist was by no means the identical once more. “It was like a rite of passage, a way of saying goodbye to his past. He was very, very creative after that.”
Now, Ossorio’s works are thought-about by consultants “the missing link between the American Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock (also played by Villarama) and European Art Brut by Jean Dubuffet (played alternately by Julienne Mendoza and Jojo Cayabyab),” wrote Inquirer Arts and Books editor Lito Zulueta in a current article.
At 74, Ossorio died of aneurysm on Dec. 5, 1990. He continued painting as much as his death, although his later work was collage and assemblage.
“Angry Christ” the play shouldn’t be a factual retelling, mentioned Quintos; he has added fictional characters just like the native assistant Anselmo (performed by Kalil Almonte) and a lecturer (performed alternately by Micaela Pineda and Arya Herrera), and an imagined assembly between Ossorio and newspaperman-turned-labor chief José Maria Nava (Greg de Leon and Neil Tolentino).
The play is directed by Dexter M. Santos with manufacturing design by Gino Gonzales, lights design by Monino S. Duque and music design by Krina Punsalan Cayabyab. —CONTRIBUTED
“Angry Christ” runs April 26-May 14 at Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, UP Diliman. Call 09179673616.
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