Tuesday, March 1, 2011

*240. GALO B. OCAMPO, Champion of Philippine Arts & Culture

GALO B. OCAMPO, as Director of the National Museum. The multi-talented artist was a painter, sculptor, scenographer, writer, teacher, columnist, museum curator, cultural-activist and a proud son of Sta. Rita, Pampanga. ca. 1960s.

The title of “most multi-facetted artist of the Philippines” may very well belong to Kapampangan Galo B. Ocampo, who, in his lifetime, was a painter, muralist, art professor, heraldry expert, scenic designer, museum curator, writer, cultural activist and one of the Thirteen Moderns who revolutionized Philippine Art.

Ocampo first saw the light of day in Sta. Rita, on 16 October 1913, from a religious family that counts a number of priests and nuns as members. He studied in local schools before enrolling at the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines in 1929. After graduating in 1934, he began his long career as an artist of note, starting as a muralist with fellow artists Victorio Edades and Carlos “Botong” Francisco.

Joining forces, the trio painted the first Philippine mural at the Capitol Theater in 1935, and another one for State Theaters. On his own, Ocampo executed the mural “Hispanidad” for the University of Santo Tomas. His works with the Edades Studios during the Commonwealth years reflected his new aesthetic sense that ran counter to art conservatism taught in academes.

Ocampo went on to make another first—conceiving the first painted image of the “Brown Madonna” in 1938, a Filipinized version of the Blessed Virgin, which would become a popular theme for other painters to follow. That same year, he also held his first exhibit in tandem with Diosdado Lorenzo in Baguio. He would continue experimenting with colors, lines and decorative distortions, consistent with his modernist leanings. His ethnic painting “Moro Dance” reflected this then non-traditional approach, characterized with flattened objects and spaces that made the painting look more like a tapestry.

Ocampo turned to his other muse—writing-- even as he continued painting. In 1937, he published a book about church art in 1937, entitled “Philippine Churches and Other Scenes”. He became a prolific contributor of art articles for some of Manila’s leading dailies, including Sunday Tribune. Twenty years later, in 1957, he co-authored the pioneering book, “The Art of the Philippines”, the first coffee table book to trace the history of the country’s art from the pre-colonial to the contemporary times.

In 1940, he took on a teaching job at the UST College of Fine Arts. His career as an educator would continue through the 70s, even assuming the deanship of the Department of Fine Arts of the Far Eastern University in 1971.

The War years briefly put a halt to his rising career; he joined the guerrilla movement and attained the rank of a captain. He put his brush to good use by becoming a scenographer for the stage productions of Fernando Poe, Sr., a cover he used for his underground activities.

After the War, Ocampo went to the United States to take a special course in Heraldry in Washington D.C. (1947) and art studies at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1948). He put his learnings to good use in art competitions, winning a number of prizes for his works, including “United Nations” (2nd prize, UN Art Contest, 1949), “Pounding Rice”, “Igorot Dance” (2nd prize and Honorable mention, Art Association of the Philippines Contest 1951), "Bayanihan" (1st Rotary Golden Anniversary Award, 1955).

His art took on a different turn in the 50s, infusing the haunting images of doom that were part of his war experience. Flagellants became his signature subjects, starting with “Ecce Homo” (Behold the Man), that showed a hooded, bound Christ, crowned with thorns and surrounded by warplanes, smoke trails and parachutes.

In 1956, Ocampo was granted a scholarship to study Genealogy and Heraldry in Madrid, Spain, becoming the only Filipino member of the International Institute of Genealogy and Heraldry. The next year, he was sent to Rome under the sponsorship of Cardinal Rufino Santos, to study Liturgical Art at the Instituto Internasionale de Arte Liturgica (he would design the stained glass windows of Sto. Domingo Church) . Because of his expertise, Ocampo was commissioned to create the coat of arms of the Philippine Republic and the personal seals of the President, the Vice President, as well as those of the Archbishops of Manila.

In 1959, the professor undertook a major project for the Archdiocese of Manila, saving and collecting church antiques for an ecclesiastical art museum housed at the Manila Cathedral. When Macapagal was elected president in 1961, he named his kabalen as curator of the Presidential Museum in MalacaƱang and then as National Museum Director. In 1964, Ocampo was honored by the City of Manila with a Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award for his achievements in the field of art and culture.

At the advanced age of 59, Ocampo finally held his long overdue first Solo Exhibit at Galerie Bleue in 1973, entitled Anthropographic Designs, which paid tribute to the early Filipinos. A retrospective exhibit was held in 1982 at the Museum of Philippine Art. Three years later, on 12 September 1985, Galo B. Ocampo, the consummate Kapampangan artist who helped enrich and transform Philippine art, passed away in Arlington, Virginia.


hsmiranda358@yahoo.com said...

A birth centennial exhibit is on going until Nov 15, 2013 at the UST Museum, Manila : "Mysteries & Colors: Galo Ocampo"

The long overdue book "The Life and Times of Galo B. Ocampo" by Alice G. Guillermo was launched last Oct 19 at the National Museum by the authos and Heirs of Galo Ocampo. The book is published by McEnrho Book Publishing and will soon be available at leading book stores nationwide. hsmiranda358@yahoo.com

Hsmiranda358@yahoo.com. said...

The order of Lakandula was conferred posthumously to world famous Kapampangan painter Galo B. ocampo with the order of Maringal na Pinuno (grand officer) amable ocampo and his sister celeste ocampo-philipps received the award from National Museum Director Jeremy Barnes last july 22, 2015.

alex r. castro said...

Thank you for this recent update.