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Seduction of the monochrome

By CARLOMAR ARCANGEL DAOANA, The Philippine STAR Published Sep 04, 2023 5:00 am

In the realm of artistic expression, where colors often dance together to create vibrant masterpieces, a handful of works have dared to defy convention by embracing the monochromatic palette.

The Magnificent September Auction of León Gallery presents a handful of works that delve into the nuanced world of monochrome, showcasing the power of single tones to evoke emotion, narrative, and intellectual inquiry. Exceptional works from different generations of artists—Marc Aran Reyes’ Displacement I, Arturo Luz’s trifecta of pieces, Fernando Zobel’s Estudio, and Lao Lianben’s Voices—stand as a testament to the allure of the monochromatic mark on modernist and contemporary art.

A trifecta of geometric works by Arturo Luz

At the heart of this collection lies the idea that monochrome, despite its singular hue, carries an unbounded capacity to encapsulate diverse stories and provoke multifaceted contemplation. This concept draws parallels with Kazimir Malevich’s iconic Black Square, a pioneering work that ignited the supremacy of monochrome in modernism. Just as Malevich’s enigmatic square invited introspection beyond its surface, the featured works in the auction transcend the apparent simplicity of monochrome to delve into the realms of thought, symbolism, and aesthetic innovation.

Marc Aran Reyes, one of the most notable names working on the monochromatic idiom, invites viewers to explore the enigmatic depths of Displacement I. Exhibited in his groundbreaking solo show, Placed, at Art Central Hong Kong in 2019, this work invites contemplation of the concept of presence and the weight of existence. A pile of stones, positioned on a table for two, becomes a surreal yet symbolic representation of human consciousness. Could these stones signify the burdensome thoughts that individuals grapple with—the very essence of existence? Reyes crafts a visual paradox, melding the real and the abstract, and illustrating painting’s remarkable ability to narrate stories beyond the figurative.

Displacement I by Marc Aran Reyes

In a symphony of geometric elegance, Arturo Luz’s Juggler No. 1, Juggler No. 2, and Cyclist emerge as emblematic ensembles. These pieces from 1999 demonstrate Luz’s mastery in harnessing geometric forms to evoke human silhouettes, all while embracing the monochromatic realm. A shared horizon line traverses the trio, unifying them in their stark elegance. Luz’s remarkable geometric vocabulary exemplifies how distilled shapes can exude grace, movement, and vitality, all within the confines of a monochromatic symphony.

As the gavel strikes and the collection finds new homes, the resonances of these monochromatic marvels will linger on. The featured works testify to how a singular shade becomes a canvas for infinite interpretation.

Fernando Zobel’s Estudio presents an ethereal composition, where diaphanous strokes compose a choreography of space and form. Zobel’s finesse lies in his meticulous arrangement of feathery strokes, creating an expanse that simultaneously enthralls and soothes the observer. His work illustrates how monochrome transcends the realm of mere color and transforms into a language of subtlety and poise. Estudio encapsulates Zobel’s signature style, mirroring the intersection of vastness and precision that is emblematic of his oeuvre.

Lao Lianben, a virtuoso in exploiting the monochrome ethos, beckons viewers into introspection with Voices. The piece portrays clusters of shapes against a textured backdrop, inviting a dialogue on the cacophony of voices that echo within our minds. Are these shapes representative of external voices, or do they mirror the ceaseless internal monologue of thought? Lao Lianben’s Voices encapsulates the essence of monochrome as a conduit for profound contemplation, making silence audible and unseen thoughts visible.

Voices by Lao Lianben

As the gavel strikes and the collection finds new homes, the resonances of these monochromatic marvels will linger on. The featured works testify to how a singular shade becomes a canvas for infinite interpretation. Through these works, the auction unfurls a narrative of monochrome as more than a stylistic choice; it emerges as a realm of artistic audacity, inviting audiences to explore the depths of human experience, symbolism, and thought.

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León Gallery’s Magnificent September Auction is scheduled to take place on Sept. 9 at G/F Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Street, Makati City. A preview is being held until Sept. 8. For more information, contact +632 8856-27-81 or visit