Born and raised in Tondo, Manila, Jobert Cruz draws on pride of place and his community in his recent works. In neon pinks and acid oranges, vibrant teals, and touches of purple, Cruz evokes the feeling of the 1980s, replete with padded blazers and pastel topsiders, but overlays these bright, process colors to an assortment of structures he became aware of at a young age. In the popula- tion-dense community he grew up in, building codes do not apply. Each homeowner extends their property however they want; uniformity is frowned upon, and you can paint your fence, gate, and windows as wild as you wish. Analok aluminum-framed doorways, layered walls, hefty columns, can- tilevered terraces, and receding arches serve as a dynamic backdrop to the continuous movement of pedestrians and residents, a parkour playground for the lithe, lawless, and adventurous.

Cruz’s pieces may be reminiscent of something vaguely familiar yet unnamed, but they have none of the detachment and isolating feelings elicited by other spaces created in two dimensions. His building clusters may have a lot of straight lines and angles but are neither clinical nor overly sanitized; tiny explosions of paint appear now and then, betraying the grit and grime of city life. They maintain an easy and breezy state, the environment reflecting its residents’ happy-go-lucky yet resilient attitudes, its cheery candy colors enlivening the cityscape, and creating the community of our dreams.

In his paintings, Jobert Cruz paints a love letter affectionately dedicated to his hometown, less the sentimentality: sweet, but not sickeningly so. The streets offer their stories for artworks to be made; the artist turns the narrative into music on canvas, letting his brushes conduct how his colors sing.

Text by Kaye Oyek