Rembrandt Quiballo on Why Phoenix Needs to Prioritize Art

Meet Rembrandt Quiballo.EXPAND
Meet Rembrandt Quiballo.
Grant Vetter

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 26. Rembrandt Quiballo.

"What inspires me is the pursuit of knowledge," artist Rembrandt Quiballo says. 

And the 38-year-old's interests are far reaching. "Whether it’s taking a college class, browsing the internet, learning a new skill, binge-watching season one of Mr. Robot, eating at a new restaurant, or traveling to places I’ve never been," he says, "it’s all an accumulation of our experiences, and the more information you acquire, the more the world and life makes more sense. And if it still doesn’t make sense, make art about it until it does.""

This need to explore is crucial to his art-making, which looks at how the mass media's moving images affect both society and politics — often to absurd ends. "My art practice varies from compositing screen captures of cinematic films to create a conventional still photograph to collecting video uploads from YouTube in order to create a more complete visual representation of a media spectacle," he says. "I mainly utilize existing footage found in film, television, and the internet."

That means, of course, that the artist is perpetually consuming such media. The results vary from printed objects to videos or that depth of understanding the world Quiballo hunts. 

Perhaps Quiballo's quest for understanding is rooted in his personal history. Born in the Philippines, his family left the country after a chain of events, including the assassination of Ninoy Aquino leading to the People Power Revolution, led to social and political unrest. After living in Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands, they settled in Tucson, Arizona, where Quiballo grew up.

Quiballo's Pop Immaculate.EXPAND
Quiballo's Pop Immaculate.
Courtesy of Rembrandt Quiballo

Through his college years studying philosophy, painting, and photography at University of Arizona and Arizona State, and through his present-day career, the need to understand and to create have been paramount. 

His recent installation at Phoenix Art Museum, the result of his winning a Contemporary Forum grant last year, brought together hundreds of Polaroids taken from a television screen to convey the "overwhelming effect of visual images we are bombarded with on a daily basis."

His latest photographic work examines how mass media has succeeded religion as the principal influence on societal beliefs and values. It's yet another turn in the creative's career, which has been marked by not only a nod from Contemporary Forum, but also his inclusion in the past two Arizona Biennials.

Now, he's finishing a new body of work called "New Myths" for a solo show opening during September's First Friday at MonOrchid's Bokeh Galley. Quiballo created the pieces using an image-transfer technique, and he has another show tentatively slated to open at Fine Art Complex 1101 in Tempe, "as the presidential election comes to a climax, interesting times indeed."

For Quiballo, the process of creating art is both cathartic and therapeutic. "It’s given me a purpose and a lens through which to experience life," he says. "Being an artist means you are aligning yourself to certain values and ideals that are sometimes antithetical to the broader culture. I feel art can expand the possibility of our humanness, and making art is an essential part of that."

Quiballo's Flower Soldier.EXPAND
Quiballo's Flower Soldier.
Courtesy of Rembrandt Quiballo

I came to Phoenix with considerable excitement to start grad school.

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I make art because it’s the best way for me to communicate my thoughts on the human condition. It keeps me sane, and gives me purpose to an otherwise mundane existence.

I’m most productive when there’s a perfect storm of an approaching deadline in accord with some kind of breakthrough in my work that I want to see all the way through. I guess it’s like being in a zone or a high, when basic human needs become secondary to creating art.

My inspiration wall is the internet.

I’ve learned most from mass media, academia, altered states, travel, family, and friends.

Good work should always be innovative. I don’t mean that it has to use virtual reality or motion sensors, although I’m very much into emerging technology, but good work is always pushing boundaries aesthetically and conceptually. I get real excited when someone creates something fresh and new with a pencil and paper.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more ways for artists to thrive, not just survive. I was helping run a gallery downtown when the last Super Bowl was held here. There were literally tens of thousands of people at a Super Bowl supplementary event a mile away, and the gallery had like five visitors that day. I’m not trying to hate on the sports, I actually quite enjoy it, but that definitely crystallized what we’re up against in my mind.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith


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