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The Apocalyptic Vision of Manuel Ocampo

FACES

“I don’t want to be too literal and explain my work too much, because I want people to be able to just feel it, to feel all the emotion that went into these paintings,” says Manuel Ocampo, who has his first major gallery show at Santa Monica’s Fred Hoffman through Feb. 9.

Ocampo, a somewhat shy 25-year-old, moved to Los Angeles from his native Philippines four years ago and uses his colorful paintings to try to capture “an apocalyptic vision of these evil times"--both in his native country and worldwide.

“My work is about the Philippines, and then it’s about the world,” he says. “Look at what’s happening right now in the Persian Gulf; look at NEA funding of the arts; look at the AIDS crisis. I always think about those things when I do my art--basic catastrophe kind of things.

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“I think it’s the same everywhere,” he continues. “In the Philippines maybe (the political problems) are more obvious, whereas here it’s more secretly felt. Maybe you feel more secure physically, here, but you’re really not safe. It’s the same basic thing everywhere--oppression.”

Ocampo bases his work on Philippine history, and uses numerous symbols--including crosses, skulls, the devil, hooded priests and swastikas--to depict controlling influences and what he calls “the Spanishization of the Philippines.”

“My art stems from the start of Spanish colonization and domination, because I think the Philippines is forever wounded from that,” Ocampo says, noting that his paintings are filled with Spanish phrases and titles, such as “Murio La Verdad” (The Truth Died) and “Todos Caeran” (All Will Fall).

Ocampo, who had works in no less than eight shows in smaller galleries in 1990, never attended art school and would not go into detail about his artistic training. He would say only that he was just beginning his work as a painter when he left the Philippines and that he “did some stuff for the Catholic Church; I was a painter under the guidance of a priest, but that’s all I’ll say.”

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One of the things Ocampo confronts in his work is what he calls “the Westernization of all cultures.” But, he admits: “I contradict myself. I am Westernized. I’m an American, I might as well be white. . . . But that’s why I’m an artist, so I can paint about these things and be able to deal with them.”

THE SCENE

The L.A. County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art have joined forces for their first-ever shared fund-raiser, a $150 per person supper party and the premiere of actor and collector Steve Martin’s new film, “L.A. Story.”

The event, which will be held at Century City’s AMC 14 Theaters, is scheduled for Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m. Proceeds will be split between the two institutions, which hope to raise $50,000 each. Tickets are available from MOCA at (213) 621-1703 or LACMA, (213) 857-6545.

CURRENTS

Holly Barnet-Sanchez, a principal coordinator of UCLA’s recent exhibition “Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation,” has been appointed as the first full-time resident curator of exhibitions at the Mexican Museum in San Francisco.

Barnet-Sanchez has worked with a number of L.A.-based organizations including Self-Help Graphics, Social and Public Art Resource Center and Plaza de la Raza. She is a specialist in pre-Hispanic art and has worked extensively in colonial, modern and contemporary Mexican art.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Museum was recently awarded a $110,000 1991 Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support a national biennial touring program of Mexican and Chicano art scheduled to begin later this year.

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Other California visual art institutions receiving 1991 NEA Challenge Grants, which must be matched 3-1 by the institutions, include the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco ($850,000 for an earthquake preparedness and renovation program at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ($750,000 for a media arts program), Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum ($60,000 to develop major traveling exhibitions on the themes of “Addictions,” “The Life Cycle: Aging, Childbirth and Parenting” and “Alienation/Assimilation/Identity”) and CalArts ($175,000 to support collaborative activities with artists and multicultural art organizations).

Several California museums have also received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which recently awarded $9.8 million to museums and historical organizations in 22 states. Awards to local institutions include $350,000 to the L.A. County Museum of Art for the important upcoming traveling exhibition, “ ‘Degenerate Art’: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany,” which premieres at LACMA Feb. 17-May 12; and $50,000 to UCLA to support planning of a traveling exhibition on Panamanian art.

Individual artists Lorie Erikson, Erik M. Hull, Carol M. Morton, Anet Margot Ris, Christine Robbins, Ilene Segalove and Paul Tassie and the nonprofit arts group Visual Communications have all been awarded technical support grants from the Long Beach Museum of Art’s annual Video Access Program for new video projects that must be completed by Dec. 31.

Each artist will receive both production and post-production facility access at the museum’s Video Annex and will have their works featured in future exhibitions at the museum.

HAPPENING

General Idea, the noted New York-based art collective that produced such well-known images as the internationally displayed AIDS poster reinterpreting Robert Indiana’s famed “Love” image, are in town to teach Winter classes at UCLA through March.

In addition, the group will lead a free public lecture at UCLA’s Dickson Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Information: (213) 206-3888.

The Huntington Library on Saturday is holding “The Pre-Raphaelite in Context,” a symposium in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition, “Pre-Raphaelite Drawings and Watercolors from the Huntington Collection.” Information: (818) 405-2225.

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Video artist Susan Mogul will present performances on Friday and Saturday in conjunction with her installation at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Admission is $5. Information: (213) 399-0433.


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