Jan 08 2020

Obituary: Gabriel Barredo (1957–2020)

by HG Masters

Manila-based installation artist GABRIEL BARREDO has died at the age of 62. Courtesy Silverlens Gallery, Manila.

Philippine artist Gabriel Barredo died on January 6 at his home in Manila. He was 62.

Barredo was known for creating large-scale, immersive installations incorporating found objects and kinetic components; his recent projects were often completed with performers and music. Over the course of four decades, he exhibited widely in the Philippines, the rest of Asia, and the Americas.  

Though Gabriel Barredo had a reputation for being reclusive, his artworks were dramatic, and addressed existential, humanist themes around mortality. In January 2015, at Silverlens Gallery, he presented the first chapter of his massive installation Opera, which featured mannequins, a cast of a young woman, medical devices, clocks, and walls covered with rows of tiny sculptures of screaming faces. In an interview, he explained how he collected medical devices and used them in Opera, which fused notions of the theatrical performance and surgical operations. “A screaming face represents what we all have to go through in life—it’s an endless scream,” he remarked. 

A year later, Barredo re-imagined Opera as a installation at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, with a performance by dancers from Ballet Philippines choreographed by Redha, and a libretto by Yvette Tan and Erwin Romulo and music by Malek Lopez. Barredo then reconfigured these sculptural components for a second exhibition of Opera at Silverlens in early 2016. Components of the installation were ultimately acquired by the Singapore Art Museum later that year.

Barredo was born in 1957 and studied sculpture and advertising at University of Santo Tomas in Manila, graduating in 1991. By that time he had already been selected as the Philippines representative for sculpture at the 1985 Havana Biennale, and later represented his country at the São Paulo Biennial in 1994. He held solo exhibitions at Ayala Museum in 2005, and Soka Art Center, Beijing, in 2008, before making a big impression at the inaugural edition of Art Fair Philippines in 2013. There, he presented a nine-meter-long installation, Asphalt, which featured dozens of tableaux crafted from found objects. Writing in an article at the time for ArtAsiaPacific, Marlyne Sahakian described how to make the work, Barredo had “dissected and reassembled objects—manual clocks, toy rockets, mechanical devices—into a multilayered contraption that depicts hundreds of strange and ominous scenes.” 

Barredo’s death was announced on Facebook by his niece, theater actor Cara Barredo, on Monday, “leaving his house exploding with his beautiful art—finished and unfinished. Beautiful. Crazy. Very much like him.” The reaction from the local art community was immediate. Isa Lorenzo of Silverlens Gallery called him “an incomparable artist, a generous collaborator, a loving friend . . . An artist who pushed the limits of what art and its magical experiences can be.” Art Fair Philippines saluted his contribution to its first edition, while numerous others shared tributes on social media.

A wake was held for Gabriel Barredo on January 8 at the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Manila.  

HG Masters is the deputy editor and deputy publisher of ArtAsiaPacific.

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ACAW Artspace SAM CHRISTIE"S Silverlens