Art picks from the Filipinx curator blazing new trails in the Bay Area
PJ Gubatina Policarpio’s our kind all-around art professional. An educator, writer, curator, and community organizer, Policarpio’s also a longtime 20x200 collector. “20x200 was what made collecting art real and accessible for me, even on my post-college budget,” he told us. “As my collection grows, I'll never forget the excitement of looking through your website and selecting an artwork and then receiving it at home. I've lived with those early works throughout various moves!” Plus, he’s followed our 5+5 series for years—so of course we had to have him curate a 5+5 of his very own.
With over 10 years working in museum education at institutions like the Museum of Modern Art, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Queens Museum, Policarpio brings more than experience to the table—there’s real passion underpinning his career. In his current role as the inaugural manager of youth development at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Policarpio focuses on engaging young people ages 16-24 in a variety of museum roles and programs, seeking out diverse perspectives and underrepresented voices. In the past, he’s spearheaded programs and exhibitions at, for instance, SF’s Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, and Southern Exposure. He’s spoken at various academic sites, including engagements at the California College of the Arts, UC Berkeley, Parsons, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He’s also the co-founder of Pilipinx American Library, an itinerant library and programming platform dedicated to Filipinx perspectives.
The point is, Policarpio may just have had a hand in some of the more interesting, dynamic art initiatives you’ve come across in recent years. Peruse his projects here, and get acquainted with his writing here. And don’t miss his 20x200 editorial debut, with some of our favorite 5+5 art reflections to date—below! — Team 20x200
5 Perfect Picks
I love everything about this portrait by Morel Doucet. I’m drawn to the softness of the silhouette. The floral pattern is stunning and inviting but at the same time obscures the figure. There’s a sense of anonymity, which is intriguing. I want to know: Who is this person? What are they like? Where are they from? There’s so much about this work that speaks to queerness for me and I love that.
As an immigrant, you have a completely different idea of the United States before and after moving here. It can seem vast and seeing it in this edition makes it even more so. This also reminds me of land and recognizing the violent history of colonization this nation was founded on and continues to this day. From above, it’s revealing seeing where the lights are clustered. It makes me question how much our electoral process is truly representative of the people. This image also shows the illusion of borders. So interesting!
One of my favorite things about 20x200 is being introduced to new artists. Yosuke Yamaguchi is one of those artists for me. I love the fantastical element of this print. It reminds me of childhood dreams and fairy tale adventures, but in a very gothic and sophisticated way.
This summer, we all experienced a critical reckoning following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arberry. It brought me back to 2012 and Trayvon Martin. That moment crystallized for me the depravity of white supremacy in this country. Trayvon’s death had a huge impact on me and propelled me to continue my work with youth. What I love about this pair of paintings is the softness and tenderness shared between fathers and sons, which in our society is tragically rarely attributed to Black men and boys.
What can I say? The water is so inviting. It’s just the perfect amount of zen that I need right now.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
As a self-confessed museum nerd, this is a tough one to answer. Without mentioning museums where I’ve worked, I would have to say that the Noguchi Museum in Queens, NY is one that is very special to me. As a Filipinx American working in the arts, there’s a lot that I can relate to in Noguchi’s experience as a Japanese American artist and also political activist. Aside from his biography, the museum, which Noguchi himself designed, is truly one of the most beautiful museums I’ve ever been to in New York, and has stayed true to Noguchi’s legacy.
2) What's your most coveted coffee table book?
One that excites me right now and I can’t wait to get my hands on is Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham’s Black Futures. I’m curious to see how they have organized this compendium of contemporary Black life and culture alongside so many other voices, and how it can chart a future for us all.
3) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
Sometimes a space calls for a single statement piece and sometimes a salon wall. But to be honest, I love being surrounded by art.
4) If you could be reincarnated as an artist, who would you want to be?
Not sure if I would want to be reincarnated in a different body, but I would love to have a conversation with Félix González-Torres. Almost 25 years after his death, his art remains as compelling, enigmatic, and revealing as ever. As an artist, he was able to be of the moment (memorably, tackling the AIDS epidemic in the '80s) but also could see into the future. Félix was a truth teller in every sense. His works still resonate today. I’d love to meet him.
5) At the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, your work revolves around youth-centered initiatives. What’s it been like navigating your role in this very weird year? Have there been any surprises or silver linings (if you can call them that) to working with youth in this context?
With the global pandemic still surging around us, the economic collapse, and the national reckoning on race brought about by the state-sanctioned killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, museums—like other institutions and industries—are having a much-needed moment of deep reckoning and reflection. For me, it has meant thinking critically about my role, and also the museum’s role, in this time of crisis but also in transformation. How can I push for accountability and move my work and my institution forward to be more actively anti-racist, equitable, and toward justice? It’s not an easy task and I’m starting where I can. Currently, I am re-evaluating how we engage with youth (16-24 year olds) through our programs, outreach, everything that we do.
The 411 on PJ Gubatina Policarpio
PJ Gubatina Policarpio is an educator, writer, curator, and community organizer. He is the manager of youth development at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. PJ has organized programs and exhibitions at Southern Exposure, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Asian Art Museum, Dixon Place, and NURTUREart. Notable projects include First Made into Language (2020), Solidarity Struggle Victory (2019), and Rally: Queer Art and Activism Now (2016). He has delivered lectures and keynotes at California College of the Arts, Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art, University of California at Berkeley, Cooper Hewitt, Parsons School of Design and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His writing has appeared in Art21 Magazine, Art Practical, and Mabuhay Magazine. PJ is co-founder of Pilipinx American Library, an itinerant library and programming platform dedicated exclusively to Filipinx perspectives. Born in the Philippines, PJ lives and works between San Francisco and New York City. www.pjpolicarpio.net.