Gabriel Barredo’s Morbid “Opera”
Filipino artist Gabriel Barredo is developing a reputation for his dark, macabre sensibilities. In 2013, he gained international acclaim for his work Asphalt, a highlight of Art Fair Philippines that year. The installation was mammoth in size—filling an entire parking lot with an eerie selection of found objects. In his newest series “Opera,” recently on view at Silverlens, the artist ruminates on the physical and spiritual aspects of death. “If the sleep of reason breeds monsters, then what would its total death produce in its wake?” the artist asks.
Barredo’s exhibition resembled a mixture of a mausoleum and a laboratory, integrating the corporeal, medical, and psychological components of death. Baby fetuses shrouded in black nets hang from the ceiling; hollowed-out mannequins and sculptures configured with medical instruments punctuate the halls. Using red twine and pantyhose, Barredo mimics flayed corpses while organ-like sculptures give the viewer the sense that they are both walking through the inside of a body and paying tribute to its passing.
Barredo collaborated with musician Malek Lopez and videographer Jason Tan for the exhibition. Despite the title “Opera,” no operatic music plays; rather, ticking clocks create a disquieting atmosphere. The word “opera” derives from the Latin root meaning “labor” or “composition,” but can also be defined as “the act of performing a surgical operation.” Such intersection of meanings reflect the anatomical themes in the series, as well as the sense of divinity that pervades the creative process. Barredo mixes the secular with the evangelical, imagining a space where autopsy meets immortality; anatomical cutouts are juxtaposed with screaming plaster masks. Pieces such as Flying Man with Insects (2015), a harp-like work centered on a floating figure, both imprison and suspend the human form. From the eyeball-covered walls to the decapitated humanoid sculptures, Barredo imagines the body as both physically bound to and metaphysically hovering above the earth.