Provenance: Provenance: Private Collection, San Frnacisco, U.S.A.


The Filipina in traditional fashion is a cultural image brought to life by BenCab’s unique approach to group portraiture in this work. Each figure is rendered with attention to detail, giving distinct facial and get-up qualities differing one from another. It also has alluring features not adhering to the conventional arrangement of subjects, achieving compositional unity and contrast of character at the same time through positions and poses. The women, in their waiting, appear dignified. The use of a powerful black backdrop makes the viewer focus more on the subjects. Here, Cabrera paints an arguably meta-historical piece. Drawing from the faces, gestures, and figures of his own that harken a sense of universal familiarity, Cabrera’s piece exudes a documentary-like quality to them in terms of their perceived sincerity and historical aria. By doing so, Cabrera successfully captures the verve and reality of the Filipino spirit by moving away from locating it as an essence of the soul but finding it through the lived experiences of the individual and the community. Cabrera’s use of flat lighting only serves to amplify this thematic intention. By contrasting the foreground and background through a disparity of color and light values and not of shadow, Cabrera’s figurative style transforms the seemingly particular into the universal through means of subjective association. As an artist, BenCab is often heralded as the pioneer of melding Realism with a stark emphasis on class critique. Although known for his works depicting urban and rural commoner life, Cabrera later shifted his critical gaze towards the Philippines’ forgotten colonial past. By utilizing the aesthetics of old photographs, his more recent paintings have taken on the form of directed social commentaries on the influences and pathologies left behind by centuries of colonial and imperial rule.