JOSE LEGASPI, UNTITLED, PASTEL ON PAPER, 100 X 70 CM. 2011
The exaggeratedly wide-open eyes of Jose Legaspi’s characters for his pastel series are excruciating to look back at. Aside from that, these individuals are ironically endowed with sallow complexions and lewd smiles. Straight out of a nightmare, these portraits are further depicted with corresponding perversions. A man in a sexual encounter with a dog, another in the makings of a tongue lock with a disembodied head, and a phantom figure in black. Their distasteful and stark demonic attributes are enough to evoke a horrific emotional encounter. Nevertheless, as much as it is terrifying to stare back at these fiends, it is also grueling to look away. Legaspi’s works captivate the viewer by drawing him into a scene of familiar faces displayed as though under a harsh electric lightbulb. Achieved through the smoothest of strokes and the dullest of colors, the aphasic background suffices in thrusting the all too eloquent foreground.
Jose Legaspi is a faithful chronicler of power operating between the “I” and the “other.” His portraits are studies of human interaction derived from the nucleus of his communal spaces. Legaspi’s relationship with his characters is of vitriol towards people he should be respectful towards. It is hard to tell if these agonizing episodes of social critique are borne out of his bouts of existential unease or if it is the other way around. After all, the paradox of specific human experience is that no matter how specific it is down to the minute detail, it will still stand as a universal concern. The effects of hypocrisy and injustice have no proportions despite the degree of their infliction. And Legaspi remains true to his experiences by portraying people and concrete symbols with neither excess nor a dearth of them. The sincere approach to personal experience is precisely shown through his lack of preference towards vibrant colors and other compositional ornamentations.