Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Painting in Green No. 2: Lee Aguinaldo and color in its own right

His is a new old name in 20th century PH art. Rare find with interesting provenance goes on auction June 15

Lee Aguinaldo (1933-2007), 'Painting in Green No. 2,' (July 3, 1963), oil on canvas, 81.5 x 79 cm (32 x 31 in)

Self-portrait of artist Lee Aguinaldo (Salcedo Auction)

Lee Aguinaldo’s ‘Painting in Green No. 2’ will be among the precious finds to go on auction on June 15 at Salcedo Auctions’ Finer Pursuits: Important Philippine Art & Rare Collectibles. It boasts an interesting provenance. It is from the collection of celebrated Australian sociologist Prof. Ron Taft, who was introduced to Aguinaldo in Manila in the early 1960s by their mutual friend, Ken Rabin, a nephew of the great Mark Rothko.

Rediscovered after his Ateneo Art Gallery retrospective in 2010, Lee Aguinaldo is a new old name in 20th century Philippine art.  Born to wealth in 1933, he passed away in 2007.

Lee Aguinaldo’s artistic legacy met many obstacles which delayed the recognition of his artistic talent and contribution to Philippine art. Much has already been written about his extraordinary life and art, incredible experiences marked by colorful highs and dramatic lows. He was a figure in the art scene of the ’60s through the ‘90s and stirred both admiration and controversy wherever he went. This became a trademark of his character, and the main axis on which his art was viewed.

Lee Aguinaldo on a boat (Salcedo Auction)

But he was a prolific artist, a conceptual thinker who had a great thirst for life.

Part of the first generation of Filipino abstractionists, Aguinaldo, with his good friends Fernando Zobel and Arturo Luz, blazed trails during the wave of modernism that swept through Philippine art in the postwar years.

Riding this modernist crest, Aguinaldo: went through several phases, each distinct, using a wide range of styles, from Color Field paintings, Action paintings, to collaged images from photographs, and pen and ink drawings that used lines expressively to capture form and essence.

To be included in the June 15 Salcedo Auction’s Finer Pursuits, Lee Aguinaldo’s  ‘Homage to Rembrandt No. 9,’ (1990, on label verso), pen, ink and acrylic on paper, 22.5 x 18.5 cm (8 3/4 x 7 1/4 in)

It never bothered him to borrow or reference styles from artists he admired, such as the abstract modernists Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Arshille Gorky, and Dutch masters Vermeer, Rembrandt, even at one point deviating from pure abstraction into pop imagery of Rauschenberg in between phases of his chromatic abstractions. And yet he always remained an original.

Painting in Green No. 2, an oil on canvas work done in 1963, is timeless and transcendent. It goes past the appearance of the physical world, through new concepts of space, color, light, and design. Lee Aguinaldo subscribed to this idea very much:

Color as expressive, emotional object in its own right.

Lee Aguinaldo and Melba Arribas with  photographer Wig Tysmans (Photo by Wig Tysmans)

His life and work showed his profound intellect as he took inspiration from great artists and academic resources into his artmaking.

Read more:

Finer Pursuits auction features rare Anita Magsaysay-Ho

About author


A former magazine editor, she writes about arts and culture, both as journalist and as friend to many of the country’s foremost artists, designers and the culturati.

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