Abueva, Napoleon V. (1930--) By Guazon, Tessa Maria
National artist Napoleon Abueva is a pioneer of modernism in sculpture. He trained at the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts, mentored by Guillermo Tolentino, whose classical style placed him alongside the forerunners of Conservatism in Philippine art at the turn of the century. The modernist vein in Philippine art can be characterized as having increased emphasis on the formal aspects of the design, the expressiveness, the depiction of the unsightly, the shift from urban to rural subjects, the exploration of genre themes, and the heightened awareness of national identity and its manifestations in art. These were greatly evident in Abueva’s early works, which exhibited his versatility, the expanse of his interest in varied themes and subject matter, his skillful manipulation of material as conveyed through form rendered in varying degrees of complexity. His works encompass a panorama of themes and styles and by turns, can be classified as figurative, constructivist, or abstract. They may appear minimalist in silhouette and composition, such as his Allegorical Harpoon (1964), figurative like his many commissioned works for institutions, such as those in the University of the Philippines campuses, or stylized and functional, as the furniture and house parts he designed and made.