Manuel Ocampo: Uplands Gallery

By Green, Charles | Artforum International, April 2009 | Go to article overview

Manuel Ocampo: Uplands Gallery


Green, Charles, Artforum International


Mobile, menacing, messy: These are words that immediately describe Manuel Ocampo's hit-and-run approach to painting and, ostensibly, to identity. Like the late German artist Martin Kippenberger, Ocampo presents a surplus of meaning but a dandyish deficit of definable intention. The artist's articulate, carefully rehearsed, public disdain for the vocabulary of art criticism and theory (he has often selected the baroque titles of his shows and individual paintings from art critics' and canonical artists' utterances), combined with his predilection for artistic collaborations (not least with another Uplands artist, David Griggs, who is often resident in Ocampo's hometown, Manila), further complicates interpretation.

Ocampo's recent paintings--exhibited under the title "The tragicomic gravitational destiny of the conscious stricken world of a painter's limp wrist" in conjunction with his residency at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, ahead of a major show there in July--are remarkably consistent with those that he has been producing for the last fifteen years. If his mimicry of Baroque religious painting, harnessed to an insistent postcolonial politics, was more evident back in the early 1990s, Ocampo is still exploring the implications of that unruly combination: In The Rainbow Connection (D.Griggs), 2008. for example, the artist arranges images, both heraldic and scatologically abject, in shallow space. He has a thing for blood, guts, pumping hearts, and shit. He submerges cartoonish, Robert Crumb-like figures in murky paint strokes, their body parts and viscera adrift; or floats them aloft, silhouetted above low, cursory horizon lines in arrangements that recall Goya's paintings. In The Rainbow Connection, both ends of a crudely scrawled rainbow descend into a mug of beet. Beside this image sits a memorial with the name D. GRIGGS affixed to its crucifix. The landscape is completed by the signs of a bad party: an upended bottle sticking out of a Halloween skull, balloons, party sausages, a leering child, and storm clouds. …

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