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CHABET, Roberto

At the time of his death in 2013, Roberto Chabet was widely acknowledged as the founding figure of Philippine conceptual art. Chabet’s signature material for his installations and sculptures was plywood, a ubiquitous material in Manila – makeshift shelters in the poorest districts are constructed from plywood, and it symbolised the city’s reconstruction after it experienced heavy bombing during World War Two. He also explored the ocean and seafaring as ongoing subjects in his work, which allowed him to address histories of trade and colonialism in the Asia Pacific region.

Waves 1975 is one of Chabet’s most significant works: first shown in a survey exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, it is his only surviving installation from the 1970s. Composed of 21 plywood panels hung from ceiling pivots, the gentle swaying motion and changing contours suggest the undulating surface of the ocean, while the pale blue colour was selected for its properties as a light receptor.

Chabet was not only an influential artist, he was also renowned for his work as a curator, director and lecturer in the Philippines. His installations demonstrate how serial, modular forms and conceptual principles can collapse the boundaries between sculpture, painting, architecture and theatre.