Photograph of the empty Main Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines before the installation of Roberto Chabet's solo exhibition, 'China Collages: 1980 - 1990,' 1992.
Excerpt from Carina Evangelista, Roberto Chabet: China Collages, King Kong Art Projects Unlimited, 2012:
'Of all of Chabet’s works, nothing demonstrates the monstrous and the marvelous of the times more than his sustained practice of collaging. The countless cut-out and hand-torn pieces of paper from books, newspapers, magazines, comic books, art students’ plates, maps, and stamped envelopes bear witness to the wealth of visual material and the photographic march of history that the artist shreds with both love and violence.'
'The China Collage series is titled after the maps of China, Mongolia, and Korea that were used as a base for the first collages, with the overleaf of the opened map explaining their peculiar inverted L shape. A grid of coordinates for islands, rivers, mountains, and paths served as the expanse subsequently smothered with layers of paper to create a topography littered with the thick confetti of chaotic visual information.'
Chabet made over 300 China Collages from 1980 until the 1990s; they have become a source book for the imagery in his works. Described by the artist as his 'picture morgue,' they are 'a cumulative transformation of the desirée into the déchiré—a threshing of the treasured. Some torn pages still bear the puncture marks of thumbtacks, evidencing previous lives as bulletin board pinup specimens for study, fond regard, or critical rumination. Now torn, plastered in layers, and framed, these strips of paper so willfully ripped aren’t discarded but preserved. The composed visual detritus anticipates the mash-up, suggesting that all—Buddha, Superman, and the swastika—are fair game or that the varying reds of a tomato, a dab of cadmium paint, a flattened McDonald’s pouch for fries, and of the Biblical burning bush are all equal in formal or allegorical value in a massively complex contemporary time.'
Over 50 works from the China Collage series were exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1992. The first few works in the series were shown at Alegria Gallery in 1981 and at Luz Gallery in 1982.