CABRERA, Ben, Escape artist I & Escape artist II
Ben Cabrera, better known as Bencab, is highly regarded for both his expressionist approach to Social Realism and as one of the founders of the influential Baguio Arts Guild (in 1987). The politically oppressed and socially disadvantaged are common subjects in Bencab’s imagery, often framed geometrically by squares and rectangles. At the time he produced these etchings, Bencab was a long-term resident of London, during a period of self-imposed exile from the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in which his work took a decidedly political turn. He came under the influence of the American-born artist RB Kitaj, whose canvases hold fragmented visual elements together with the use of cohesive narrative content. Printed off Bencab’s own etching press, Escape artist I and II relate to a series of studies based on fellow expatriates, including painters Aro Soriano and Virgilio ‘Pandy’ Aviado, and filmmaker Eric de Guia. The prisoner in chains represents anonymous political captives, but also recalls a street performer the artist encountered in London’s West End.