Words by MARGA MAGALONG | Photos by MIGUEL TARROSA
To those who think art belongs only in stuffy galleries, untouchable and precious: you should all go talk to Dex Fernandez, or at least check out his exhibit in this year’s Art Fair. Born and raised in Caloocan, Dex is a street art virtuoso, playing with all kinds of media on all sorts of terrain. He appropriates the street’s defining coat of arms: the garapata (tick in English) and, much like Jean-Michael Basquiat’s yellow crown or the bold stick figures of Keith Haring, Dex has stamped his mark on the art world through his iconic Garapata. The icon is not just art for art’s sake — Dex’s Garapata is anchored on personal experience.
He recounts how, in his childhood, ticks would infest his house. “Yung garapata kasi, super personal sa akin ito. Nangongolekta ako ng garapata kasama kapatid ko, ‘yun yung naging past-time namin,” he says. Fast forward to 2017, his works exhibited in Tokyo, Vermont, Taipei, and New York among many other countries — he rejoices over the fitting “infestation” of his garapata all over the world.
Beyond the personal roots of his work, he contextualizes the garapata’s infestation to Filipinos. I ask, “Ah, so parang peste yung mga Pilipino?” Dex then says “Uy, hindi naman! Open to interpretation, pero more of – kahit saan mayroon Pilipino.” As he makes his art gallery rounds from country to country, he spreads his street art with him via sticker tagging on walls, poles and roads.
From sticker tagging in the streets of Caloocan, to exhibitions in New York, the eccentric nature of his art is branching out to fine art, animation and merchandise. “Marami nang nangyari, pero ang pinaka naging root niya ang street art. Gumawa na nga ako ng toys, may stool, video.”
Experience the Garapata infestation for yourself. Dex is selling patches, stickers, and other merchandise at the 6th floor, The Link Carpark, Makati City in this year’s Art Fair Philippines. Art Fair is open today until February 19. For more information, visit http://www.artfairphilippines.com, Facebook/artfairph, Twitter artfairph, Instagram @artfairph.