Pacita Abad Art Estate

Artstor and the Pacita Abad Art Estate are collaborating to make available 500 images of the artist’s works in the Digital Library.

The internationally renowned Philippine-American artist Pacita Abad (1946 - 2004) was born in Batanes, a small island in the South China Sea. Her 32-year painting career began when she had to leave the Philippines due to her student political activism against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, and she traveled to the United States to study law. However, after a few years she switched careers to dedicate her life to art and studied painting at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and The Art Students League in New York City. Since that time Abad never stopped being a nomadic artist and painted the globe while working on six continents and traveling to over 50 countries. During her career she created over 4,500 artworks, and her paintings were exhibited in more than 200 museums and galleries around the world.

Abad’s travels significantly impacted her artistic style and were the inspiration for many ideas, techniques, and materials she used in her paintings. Her journeys were also a tremendous cross-cultural learning experience that made her acutely aware of the difficult lives that many women lead in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a politically concerned artist, Abad's portfolio traversed a wide spectrum: from her initial socio-political paintings of displaced people, political violence, refugees, and immigrants from countries like Bangladesh, Sudan, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, and the Philippines; to vibrantly colored, hand-stitched trapunto paintings depicting masks and spirits from Oceania, Java, Islands of Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean; to nature inspirations with paintings of the undersea world of the South China Sea, the Australian Outback, and Asia’s tropical flowers; and, during the latter part of her career, to her most comprehensive and vibrantly colorful, abstract, mixed-media painted textile collages and assemblages inspired by her stays in Yemen, India, and Indonesia.

Her work is characterized by color, constant change, and experimentation. After her early social realism paintings, Abad rejected the painterly emphasis on surface flatness, and sought ways to expand her canvases to go beyond the boundaries and make them more sculptural. Abad developed a unique, innovative painting style which she called trapunto painting that fused her painted canvas surfaces with hand-stitched traditional textiles, shells, buttons, mirrors, and other found objects along with her signature strong colors. She also created colorful prints, paper collages, and other works on materials including bark cloth, glass, metal, ceramics, and others. Abad also did a number of noteworthy public art installations, including a six-painting "Masks from Six Continents,” which was installed in the main Washington Metro Station, and, just before she died, the painting of the 55-meter long "Singapore Art Bridge,” which she covered with over  2,000 colorful circles at the same time she was undergoing treatment for cancer.

Abad’s paintings are now held in the permanent collections of museums such as the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan, National Gallery in Singapore, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea, National Museum of the Philippines, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Museum Nasional of Indonesia, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, the Bronx Museum in New York, and the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Jersey.