"Philippine-Made" explores identity and history, challenges colonialism through community and craft

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 19, 2024

"Philippine-Made" explores identity and history, challenges colonialism through community and craft
Matt Manalo. Photo by Michael Stargill.

HOUSTON, TX.- Houston Center for Contemporary Craft opened Philippine-Made: The Work of Matt Manalo, an exhibition of self-reflective sculptures made from air-dry clay, bamboo, and plant materials with cultural ties to Matt Manalo’s home country of the Philippines. Born in Manila, Manalo has spent half his life in America, an experience that has served as a pivotal point of inflection for the artist. The exhibition encapsulates his time living in the United States after immigrating with his family to Houston.

Manalo’s practice gives visibility to the Filipinx community and undermines the deep-seated racism and colonialism that has persisted following America’s occupation of the country. He uses his art to strengthen relationships, inviting friends and family to share a part of themselves through their donations of materials and handmade souvenirs from the Philippines. By incorporating these objects into his work, Manalo recognizes the country’s invisible labor force and acknowledges its indigenous histories. The stories of these groups then become a part of his own story, providing him with opportunities to rectify the past and collectively supplant the mentality imposed by colonialism through his artwork. Taking inspiration from Filipinx craft traditions like weaving, embroidery, and woodcarving—along with his formative childhood years in Manila—Manalo demonstrates how the knowledge of one’s own history can serve as a path to liberation.

Philippine-Made: The Work of Matt Manalo is guest curated by Kathryn Hall.

Based in Houston, TX, Matt Manalo is a multidisciplinary artist who was born in Manila, Philippines. Incorporating raw materials and found objects, his environmentally conscious work tackles ideas surrounding his self-identification as an immigrant, along with his feelings of displacement and how the concept of home is defined. In his artistic practice, he addresses the physical and social structures of the Philippines and the United States, as well as the effects of colonization, including the erasure of histories and the presence of colorism.

Manalo holds a BFA in painting with a minor in art history from the University of Houston. He is the founder of Filipinx Artists of Houston, a collective of Filipinx visual, performing, literary, culinary, and multidisciplinary artists. He is also the founder of Alief Art House, a hub for creativity that highlights the cultural richness of the multiple communities of the Alief neighborhood in Houston. This alternative art space was made possible by DiverseWorks’ Project Freeway Fellowship. Manalo has received several other residencies, fellowships, and grants. Most recently, in 2022, he was awarded the Houston Inspira Storytellers Grant through the Houston Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs. He was also selected as a featured artist as part of Asia Society of Texas’ Artists on Site series. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions, including the Blaffer Art Museum (Houston, Texas)’s group exhibition, Carriers: The Body as a Site of Danger and Desire (2021), curated by Tyler Blackwell and Steven Matijcio, and the 2021 Texas Biennial: A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon, curated by Evan Garza and Ryan Dennis.

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