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The M pays tribute to cartoonist and National Artist Larry Alcala

At the height of his career, Larry Alcala was part of every Filipino’s life. Picture a day in the life in the Philippines: the bright pops of color brought on by passing jeeps and tricycles on Manila’s busy streets, the chitter-chatter of neighborhood gossips outside their houses, children climbing trees and playing wherever they can, and the warmth of the tropical sun shining down on all of this. Of all the Filipino artists who worked with these subjects, perhaps none was more prodigious or influential for generations to come than Mr. Alcala. The common and endearing subjects and scenes portrayed by Mr. Alcala is a fitting celebration and offering for National Heritage Month, with its theme “PAMANANG LOKAL: Binhi ng Kulturang Pilipino.”

Larry Alcala: Slices of Life, Wit, and Humor opened at the SMX Convention Center Aura in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig last May 31. The exhibition featured a collection of archival reproduction of Mr. Alcala’s works alongside works in drawing, print, and digital media of selected artists influenced by Mr. Alcala, including members of the organization Ang Illustrador ng Kabataan (INK), which thrives to this day. The exhibition received curatorial guidance from visual communications educator and award-winning illustrator Professor Ruben “Totet” de Jesus of the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Fine Arts.

In the 2018 essay for the occasion of Mr. Alcala’s conferment to the Order of National Artists of the Philippines, Mr. de Jesus wrote that “Filipinos from all levels of society can appreciate Alcala’s art. His galleries are the dailies. There is mastery in his simplicity. There are messages in his images. Most of all, every Filipino is part of his family.”

The exhibition at the SMX Aura was complemented by the M’s education and public programs from June to July: an M Collab participatory project, inviting 18- to 25-year-old participants to share “à la Alcala” digital art contributions online. M Art Inspires (online conversation) featured insights and stories from Prof. de Jesus, visual artist-illustrator Aldy Aguirre, and writer-speaker Carl Javier. At the end of June, we invite young artists to join our M Online Studio Studies with a storytelling through comics and illustration workshop with visual artist-cartoonist Manix Abrera.

Larry Alcala: Slices of Life, Wit, and Humor was presented by the Metropolitan Museum of Manila and Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc., with support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, in partnership with SM and venue partner SMX Convention Center Aura. The exhibition was also made possible with the support from the following partners: BusinessWorld, DDB Group Philippines, Security Bank, and The Manila Times.

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