Roberto Chabet, father of PH conceptual art, passes away

Roberto “Bobby” Chabet, widely acknowledged as the father of Philippine conceptual art, died Tuesday, April 30, of cardiac arrest at the UERM Hospital in Sta. Mesa Manila. He was 76.

According to relatives, Chabet was brought to the hospital on Monday because of chills and a high fever.  He suffered a first heart attack at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, was revived, and died of a second attack at 7:30 p.m. the same day.

Chabet was single and had no children.He is survived by an elder sister, Carmen Mesina, and a younger sister Milagros Garcia.  His remains will be brought to the Arlington Memorial Chapels in Araneta Avenue, Quezon City on May 1.

Radical art

Chabet was born Roberto Rodriguez on March 29, 1937. He took the maiden name of his mother when he began making art because the artist Manuel Rodriguez,Sr. (no relation) was already established in the scene.

An Architecture graduate of the University of Sto. Tomas, he is known for his radical art. His experimental works included installations, drawings, collages, sculpture and paintings.

He used found materials like plywood, pop detritus, plumbing materials, and stale bread to create art at a time when nobody else was doing it in the Philippines.

Celebrated 50 years in art

His authority was so profound, he went on to influence both his peers and a generation of artists that are now stalwarts in their field.

In 2011, he was the subject of a year-long retrospective called “Roberto Chabet: Fifty Years,” where selected works toured galleries in the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Although often seen in a wheelchair in his later years, he remained prodigious--making art and showing new works until he died. His exhibit “China Collages, Ziggurats, & Other Unexhibited Collages” just ended on April 22 at West Gallery in Quezon City. He has an ongoing group exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines called “The Mona Lisa Project.”

Legacy to young artists

Another of Chabet's lasting legacies was the Thirteen Artists Award, which he initiated in 1970. It was granted to young artists by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where Chabet was founding Museum Director.

The award is the most prestigious recognition to be given by a national institution to young Filipino visual artists whose works show “recentness and a turning away from the past.”

To view some of Chabet’s art, visit the Facebook page on his retrospective, Roberto Chabet: Fifty Years.

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