Legaspi, Cesar Torrente (1917–1994) By Ramirez, Eileen Legaspi
Cesar Legaspi was a Filipino painter known as one of the 13 Moderns, a group of emergent artists whose work, according to artist-art educator Victorio Edades, was an alternative to the classicism and nostalgia-laced realism popular during the pre-World War II juncture of American colonialism in the Philippines. Along with peers Hernando Ocampo and Vicente Manansala, Legaspi was part of a generation of artists whose early image making engaged with questions of distortion, and the liberties artists could take in construing reality. In the early 1950s, these painters were regarded as the neo-realist triumvirate. While they produced works dealing with the same everyday subject matter as conservative artists of the period, they unselfconsciously took from other stylistic traditions that they encountered through research and peer exchanges. In doing so, they worked towards more individuated ways of rendering subjects, finding affinities with Cubism, Surrealism, and Expressionism. In the post-World War II period, the Neo-Realists manifested a cynicism toward the urbane, which they resolved visually in different ways. A well-known work of Legaspi’s from this period, Gadgets II (1949), depicts the mutant fusing of man and machine in an age where the industrial was both feared and mythologized. This work, alongside pieces imaging the working class (including stevedores, grave diggers, beggars, seasonal farm workers, and internal migrants) is associated with his early proletarian or proto-social realist phase.