CABRERA, Ben; Escape artist I
Born in Manila, the Philippines, in 1942, Ben Cabrera (commonly known as 'Bencab') studied at the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines, from 1959 to 1963. His robust, expressionist approach to figurative compositions and their social-realist cast links him with the early twentieth century mural tradition, especially with Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and the graphic works of German artist Kathe Kollwitz.
The politically oppressed and those who are socially disadvantaged feature as a leit-motif in many of Bencab's images. The deployment of his figures is often articulated geometrically by squares and rectangles. At the time of producing his etchings on the theme 'Escape artist', Bencab was a long-term resident of London and an admirer of the Anglo-American artist RB Kitaj, whose canvases include fragmented images inseparable from texts.
Printed off his own etching press, Escape artist I and II relate to a series of studies based on fellow expatriates. They include his friends, painters Aro Soriano and Virgilio ('Pandy') Aviado, and filmmaker Eric de Guia. The 'anonymous' prisoner portrayed in chains is at once a political captive, but also resembles the roaming pavement entertainer commonly found in London's West End.(1)
1. Reyes, Cid. Ben Cabrera: Etchings 1970-1980 [produced by Tito Roy and Francesco Navarro], 1980, p.13.
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