For his sixth solo exhibition, MADE (Metrobank Art and Design Excellence) Competition back- to-back Grand Prize winner for Sculpture (2011) and Architecture (2012) Jonathan Dangue presents an auspicious constellation of eighty-eight hand-wrought brass sculptures in “Good Catch of Crabs.”
Presented by Art Verite Gallery, which launched his first solo in 2013, this exhibition is a meditation on the much maligned crab – misconstrued as a symbol of malice and envy in the phrase “crab mentality”, a phrase often used to describe the Filipino psyche, and a popular excuse used by media to explain why Filipinos remain poor. For Dangue however, the crab is a wonderful creature which he has given an alternative reading to. Considered lucky in Chinese culture, its shell is a homonym in Mandarin for the highest scores in the Imperial Examinations. Because of this association, the crab came to symbolize high social status and prosperity. The discrepancy in meaning between the two culture’s association of the crab led Dangue to think about the crab, and focus instead on its virtues.
Highly prized for its sweet meat and roe, it is ironic that the crab should be considered by us Filipinos as a symbol of ill will against each other. The crab is as much a symbol of festivity and abundance to us. It is a staple in many parties, vacations by the beach, and family gatherings. With its strong claws and carapace, it is able to defend itself with vigor and courage. And its squat symmetrical form presents a good springboard for creative inspiration and artistic reinterpretation in his sculptures. And this is what Dangue does for this exhibition. Dangue relates the aspects of protection and sweetness to the people who have supported him in his career as an artist, and contorts sheets and rods of brass into inert, but dynamic forms, to emulate the aesthetic form of the crab, to remember each of them by. In “Good Catch of Crabs”, the titles personify the virtues of these people who have assisted him to be where he is now. There is an advisor, a fairy god father, the old soul. There are virtues like industry, calm, joy, persistence, courage, and dependability, which he sees in, and emulates from, his friends. And there are traits like sociability, affability, kookiness, and confidence, which characterize individuals he has integrated into his life story. In this sense, for Dangue, the real crab mentality which he has experienced, are from people who pulled him to his success. “Good Catch of Crabs” recalls all the wonderful people he has met, the journey he has had, and the proof that the axiom may indeed just be our negative perception of ourselves. It is an alternative reading, not just of crabs, but of our potential as a people to help each other. As an exhibition, it is a testament to the fecundity of Dangue’s artistic practice, the breadth of his imagination, and his skill in hand-shaping the workable metal.