In January this year, Timeless Sansó: 70 Years in Art was launched with a vision for a year-long retrospective on the life and works of Juvenal Sansó.
With seven major exhibits across six galleries and museums, the first exhibit, Elogio del Agua at Museo Sansó reminded of how there was more to this artist than our preconceived notions about his work, curating as it did his lesser known brighter landscapes and seascapes, like creative meditations in full color.
Since then, Timeless Sansó has had two more exhibits (at the Ateneo Art Gallery and the Kalaw Ledesma Foundation, respectively), and now offers two more major exhibitions: Sanso: Setting the Stage at the Ayala Museum and School of Sanso at the Vargas Museum.
Running until September 18, Sansó: Setting the Stage shows for the first time the artist’s work as stage and costume designer for various operas, including Sergei Prokofiev’s The Gambler (1965, Aix-en-Provence, France), Giancarlo Menotti’s Markheim (1967, Spoleto, Italy), and Jacques Charpentier’s Beatris (1971, Aix-en-Provence, France). In the Philippines, Sansó co-designed with National Artist Napoleon Abueva the set of National Artist Nick Joaquin’s Tatarin when it was staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1978 (directed by National Artist Lamberto Avellana).
This Ayala Museum exhibition includes Sansó’s colored sketches for the staged productions, as well as studies for other operas, with related archival materials and paintings. Rare samples of the artist’s reverse paintings, textile designs, and cliche verre are also on exhibition.
The Vargas Museum exhibit meanwhile is set to open on August 11. Entitled School of Sansó, this is a homecoming of sorts for the artist as he returns to the State University where his passion, values, and skills in art making were nurtured and honed as a student of Fine Arts from 1947 to 1951. As the space where he was mentored by Filipino impressionist, post-impressionist and modernist artists, this exhibit is seen as an opportunity to begin a discussion on the conditions that enabled Sansó’s creative evolution, given the state of art education during his time. School of Sansó will be at the third floor galleries of the museum, a floor above the galleries that hold the major works of Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino, some of Sansó’s mentors.
With two more exhibits to go for this retrospective, there is no indication that Timeless Sansó might be running out of fuel the way many-an-artist-retrospective tend to lose steam, just with the sheer number of exhibitions, if not the redundancy of curation and works.
For this Sansó retrospective, one gets a sense that exhibitions are well-conceptualized, works well chosen, and the imagination of the Timeless Sansó creative team is allowed to go on overdrive: how else must one grapple with the brilliant idea of publishing In Bloom a coloring book of Sansó’s sketches? Which other artist of Sansó’s stature would allow this kind of “access” to his works?
Ultimately, Timeless Sansó is a testament in itself to the breadth and scope of Sansó’s works and creativity, but also it reveals his generosity as artist, one who has decided to call the Philippines home, and who dares trust Filipinos as audience.
Coming from elsewhere, Sansó might in fact be more Filipino than we care to admit. That in itself is his significance.