James Clar Illuminates The Essence of Filipino Culture at Silverlens Gallery

James Clar's By Force of Circumstances (Hidilyn Diaz Crushed Metal), 2023

5x crushed metal sheets, metal deformed by weights dropped by Hidilyn Diaz

(96h x 240w x 6d in • 243.84h x 609.60w x 15.24d cm) Unique work

On the special occasion that light and media artist James Clar has been invited to showcase his third exhibition at Silverlens Gallery in New York, he collaborates with Hidilyn Francisco Diaz-Naranjo OLY, the first-ever athlete from the Philippines to win an Olympic gold medal (2021) for women's weightlifting. Clar asked Diaz to drop barbells onto the surface of aluminum sheets, resulting in dents that create an unparalleled effect seen in the massive installation titled Force of Circumstances (Hidilyn Diaz Crushed Metal) displayed alongside his latest collection in By Force of Nature. The exhibition, open until the end of the month, explores the concepts of identity and nature versus nurture while highlighting the strength of an individual and a nation.

The collaboration came about after Clar was keenly interested in potential and what that means in material, people, and culture. He explains, "Hidilyn Diaz hit this intersection of often marginalized positions in the world–Asian, Female, Filipino–and she became the best in the world. So to work with her on the exhibition in New York was to present on the American stage the potential of a person and country, specifically of Filipino background. Who says we can or can't do something? Limitations are often enforced on us from outside sources."

But the piece is more than just extraordinary; it's a proud representation of Filipino culture with Diaz, being considered an icon after her win, adding to such significance. All while deconstructing human potential. Diaz lives by the mantra "Chest out. Lift. One motion," a literal guide for defying gravity and a metaphor for the show. The 2020 Olympics performance by Diaz begs the question, how does one perceive a person who seemingly outwits the laws of physics? What must the individual embody to transcend into something more than themselves, akin to the motion itself?

James Clar's AMERICA (US Flag), 2021

safety reflective fabric

(97.24h x 51.18w in • 247h x 130w cm) Edition 1 of 3

Much of the show includes ideas around Clar's perception, which viewers witness throughout. As a Filipino raised in Wisconsin, the artist reflects on his upbringing after moving back to the Philippines two years ago. He is now part of a dialogue with other artists who share his background and believes Filipinos need more representation in the West. One of the pieces in the exhibition, AMERICA (US flag), features a special cloth that is activated with flash photography, making the black flag appear iridescent. Clar sees this as speaking towards the culture of personality and the emphasis on the individual in American culture. "I liked that the flag would become activated through the action of taking a photo (like paparazzi) and the creation of media content. It feels very American to me, somehow speaking towards the culture of personality and the emphasis of the individual."

Another critical piece in the exhibition is a video about Clar's parents. He interviews his parents regarding mid-career artists based in the Philippines to understand the environment in which each artist was raised. Clar believes that how we think of ourselves and our culture most directly comes from our parents and that working as an artist is very abstract, so often parents don't quite understand what their child does for a living when asked. It's an exciting play here as viewers are introduced to the video with a fish tank in front of the screen filled with live gold fishes to "create a tangential portrait of the individual filtered through the lenses of familial perception and cultural identity."

By Force of Nature is an introspective exhibition that delves into identity and the capabilities of individuals and cultures. Clar's body of work showcases the achievements of underrepresented communities and symbolizes the Filipino community's presence on a global platform as the exhibition concludes on April 29th, 2023.

James Clar's Parents, 2023

80 inch monitor, 24 x 36 x 34 inches metal table, fish tank, fish, gravel, speakers, polarized video - Duration: 33 min 03 secs

Unique work