Robert Alejandro on Working on His First Solo Show with Fundacion Sansó: ‘I’ve always wanted a life that is inclusive, an inspiring life’ - Arts & Culture

The artist and illustrator caps off the year with his “Art for All 2” exhibition on November 8.

Art is often categorized as a highbrow pursuit, but a new exhibit at Fundacion Sansó means to dispel this, with artist Robert Alejandro, no less. 

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On November 8 at 10 A.M., Alejandro x Fundacion Sansó will launch “ART FOR ALL 2” under the Art+Design=Empowerment (ADE) program. 

The exhibit will be complemented by a program of five online videos on illustration, graphic design, book making, space design, and hosting/teaching for young people and adults, along with children’s live online workshops on the Saturdays of November 6, 13, 20, 27, and December 4 via Robert Alejandro’s Facebook page. 

Fundacion Sansó’s director Ricky Francisco explains their ADE program, which was launched earlier this year featuring Bernadette De Los Santos or BidiBidi and Melissa Yeung-Yap as their guest artists. 

“I was pondering on the fact that unlike many established artists of his generation who shy away from design and applied arts, Juvenal Sansó did both fine art and applied arts, and did not feel any stigma from doing both,” Francisco explains. 

This made him think, he shares, about the way contemporary art is going, which he perceived as increasingly elitist. “So, using the insights into Mr. Sansó’s philosophy, we took it upon ourselves to create awareness of other ways that art is used for the benefit of the community,” the director says.  

In the last two cycles of ADE exhibits, part of the proceeds of the sales from BidiBidi’s and Yeung Yap’s works went to different beneficiaries: the women in rural communities in Bicol, and a T’boli weaving community who built a weaving center with the donations. 

Empowering program

“When I look at Mr. Sansó’s applied arts—the Rockwell Fountain, his Xerography, his scarves, they were borne from the genuine desire to reach out to people of all economic classes,” Francisco says. “Even in his fine art, he made litographs, etchings, and art of all sizes, so that more people can access his works depending on their financial capacity.” 

In relation to this, Alejandro’s art practice is similar; as he is a polymath of sorts, with his fine art crossing over to applied arts and back again. This includes his design work for the family business Papemelroti, his graphic design, and the TV programs The Probe Team and Art is-Kool.

Last year, Alejandro’s online workshops also got both children and adults through the early months of lockdown.

“In my website, my portfolio is categorized into published work, graphic design, illustration, space design, hosting, and teaching,” Alejandro explains. “Finally, during this pandemic, I am able to do the ‘gallery thing’—an online exhibition and sale of my art.” 

The artist started working on these exhibits in early 2021, and recently completed “Art for All,” his second exhibition. “I like the idea that someone can actually purchase an artwork of mine for 5k or less than that,” he says. 

“I am also grateful that Fundacion Sansó has agreed to help me with this under their Art+Design=Empowerment program,” Alejandro continues. “Under this program, the artist is tasked to ‘contribute to a community. I feel we’re such a good fit—I’ve always wanted a life that is inclusive, an inspiring life.”

Art for All

Alejandro’s “Art for All 2” Exhibit for ADE is indeed inclusive, composed of 96 of the artist’s works, the prices of which range from P42,800 for an original botanical watercolor to P5,000 for an original ink sketch. 

There is also a selection of various artist’s merchandise, including printed books of Alejandro’s works for less than P500, and limited prints that go as low as P200. 

In its essence, the exhibit itself is pure Alejandro: “Art for All 2” has a Filipiniana theme; it is in fact called the “Filipinas Series.” Endemic Philippine flora and fauna are also featured, such as the graceful fronds of an atis tree and the magnificent profile of a Luzon Hornbill. 

Delicate watercolors and mixed-media collages of Filipina women, in workday kimona or floaty Balintawak, are tawny skinned and dreamy. The subjects call to mind the romantic sepia photographs from that era, yet the spare lines these are rendered in show the strong Filipina spirit within.

Museums helping museums

The target beneficiary of this cycle of ADE is Museo Pambata, of which both Alejandro and Fundacion Sansó have had a long and meaningful relationship with. This beloved children’s museum, like other cultural institutions, was hit especially hard by the pandemic lockdowns, as school field trips comprised much of their income. 

Late last year, Fundacion Sansó launched their “Flowers for the Children” project, wherein two of Sansó’s limited edition giclées were released, and part of its proceeds turned over to Museo Pambata last June.  

Alejandro, on the other hand, worked with Museo Pambata on various occasions, and even designed a crafts room for them, but with the prevailing restrictions, Museo is now focusing on developing outdoor spaces for use. With this, Alejandro gave Museo Pambata an unrestricted grant wherein a percentage of sales from his exhibit would go to the children’s museum. 

The intention was part of Francisco’s idea of “museums helping other museums,” and this concept continues into the last cycle of ADE. 

“A museum reaching out to another museum is also a social responsibility,” Francisco enthuses. “And we hope that our example will encourage other people to do so. We can only go beyond this current challenge, if we all work together.”

Art + Design = Empowerment’s exhibit “ART FOR ALL 2” BY ROBERT ALEJANDRO launches at Fundacion Sansó on November 8 and will run until November 20, 2021. For more information and a complete listing of online talk schedules, contact Fundacion Sansó at [email protected].

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