Humor isn’t the first thing that people expect to find when they go gallery hopping. Most think of the experience as relaxing, quietly meditating while they patiently try to unpack the art in front of them. So when an exhibit like Jungle Chaka comes out, which encourages you to cut loose and have a laugh, some might be taken back — or, if you’re like me, squint in suspicion and try to overanalyze everything anyway. Needless to say, I should’ve just enjoyed myself from the get-go.
Jungle Chaka features works from Patrick Cruz and Jayson Oliveria. It’s a pairing that seems peculiar at first, but eventually begins to make more sense as you work your way from Artery Art Space’s first floor to second floor. Think of them as partners in a buddy cop movie: Cruz as the more no-nonsense straight man of the pairing, and Oliveria as the outlandish comic relief. Both play off of each other well, complementing the qualities that each brings forward.This isn’t to say, though, that Cruz isn’t funny or that Oliveria has nothing important to say. While Oliveria aims to make you snort in laughter with his farting wizards and cheekily placed smiley faces, Cruz displays a subtle wit — most evident in “The Clock Is Twice Right” (a painting resembling a clock that, as it turns out, could never be right) and “Auditioning for Art History” (seemingly a jab at the practice of painting itself), which are dazzling in their busyness.Meanwhile, Oliveria rises above juvenile humor by challenging our boundaries of what we consider good taste. Do the smiley faces in “Real Fur” and the thumbs-up in “Thumbs Up” sanitize the nude figures behind them, or violate them even further? Oliveria also rotates most of his works, laying a hilarious trap for the unwary: some people might end up rotating their heads along with the paintings, trying to understand what they’re looking at, before realizing how silly they look. Needless to say, I was one of those people.The centerpiece of Jungle Chaka is arguably Patrick Cruz’s untitled multimedia installation on the second floor: a wooden statuette of a carabao walking through patches of cloth arranged in a circle, with snakes, spiders, and devils drawn on the cloth — as a whole, an accurate depiction of my initial confusion and eventual enjoyment of the absurdity of it all. Jungle Chaka is valuable in that regard; apart from being a thematically sound exhibit in itself, it offers an education in letting go, having fun, and stopping to smell the roses.
JUNGLE CHAKA IS ON DISPLAY UNTIL MAY 27 AT ARTERY ART SPACE, CUBAO. FOR MORE INFORMATION, LIKE ARTERY ON FACEBOOK.COM/ARTERYARTSPACE.