Artist Fernando Modesto Confirms George Hodel Patronage
“By 1990, Hodel had bought more than a thousand of his erotic paintings spilled with vulvas, phalluses, and mouths dripping with blood.”
Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS/Newsbreak
Excerpt from “Portrait of the artist as an oddball” July 10 2009
Manila, Philippines, July 10, 2009
In an interview with Kristine Servando of the abs-cbnNEWS.com. entitled, A portrait of the artist as an oddball, Dr. George Hodel was described as Modesto’s,” biggest fan and most avid patron,” Acknowledging Hodel’s decades-old financial support by purchasing many of the artist’s early works, Modesto informed the reporter:
“At least he [Dr. Hodel] supported my career. So I could support my parents.”
(From 1970 to 1987, Dr. George Hodel, then a Manila resident, collected over 1600 original Modesto drawings and paintings.)
I quote (in bold) from Kristine Servando’s interview where she addresses the George Hodel/Fernando Modesto connection:
The early part of his career (when he was in his 20s to his 30s) was spent painting what he calls “nasty pictures” or a vast erotica collection.
His biggest fan and most avid patron was Dr. George Hodel, a prime suspect in the sensational murder of 1940s Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Short or “The Black Dahlia.” Hodel saw Modesto’s paintings at a 1970 exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and loved them.
By 1990, Hodel had bought more than a thousand of his erotic paintings spilled with vulvas, phalluses, and mouths dripping with blood. Psychiatrists and crime profilers had a field day with that.
“Yeah, I’m trying to hide that,” Modesto said a bit sheepishly, though Hodel’s alleged involvement in the Black Dahlia murder was never proven. “At least, he supported my career. So I could support my parents.”
Dr. Hodel even hired Modesto to make graphs for his medical papers. To this day, Modesto said, Hodel never explained why he liked the paintings so much.”
In, Black Dahlia Avenger, Chapter 19, “The Final Connection Man Ray Thoughtprints, I discuss Fernando Modesto’s relationship with my father, and focus on one of his erotic drawings from 1986 which I entitled, “MODESTO’S LOVERS.”
As most readers of BDA know, it is my strong conviction that my father, a close friend, and admirer of the famous surrealist, Man Ray, staged the Elizabeth Short crime scene as an homage and tribute to his guru-master and fellow Dadaist, Man Ray. How?
By using several of Man Ray’s artworks as his “inspiration.” I offer two of Man Ray’s most famous pieces, The Lovers and The Minotaur, both created in the mid-1930s, as “Peoples Exhibits 1 & 2”
For those interested in an in-depth review of the Surrealist connections I would refer you to Chapter 19.
In 1986 or 1987 my father and his wife, June Hodel, traveled from Manila to Paris, France where George Hodel hand-delivered to Juliet Man Ray a copy of “Modesto’s Lovers.” (Juliet’s husband and George’s friend and “surrealist guru” had died a decade earlier, in 1976.)
Modesto’s Lovers in comparison to Man Ray’s original Lovers
For now, I will limit my discussion to the Fernando Modesto drawing as discussed in BDA, Chapter 19, page 244-45 where I asked the question:
“Did George Hodel specifically commission this drawing and provide the artist with all of the details to be included, or did Modesto merely use his own creative energies and imagination, independent of his patron? The answer may be hidden in the work itself and what it appears to represent. First, the work is a form of flattery: it’s an imitation of Man Ray’s “lover’s lips” that extend across the horizon. However, unlike the Man Ray work, the lips in the Modesto are not full red, and the bottom lip is only partially covered. Also, the irregularity of the bottom line in the Modesto suggests dripping blood rather than lipstick. And directly above the lips are three human phalluses. To the left of the lips is a blue canal the shape of a vagina, above which a squadron of nine yellow and ten blue oval-shaped objects seem to be flying, each with its own trailing sperm-like tail. Do the two different colors represent George Hodel and Fred Sexton? These were some of the questions I asked myself when I looked at this painting again in the context of what I had just discovered. I am also convinced that my father’s trip to Paris was no simple visit but a pilgrimage, a formal presentation of Modesto’s Lovers to Juliet Man Ray to honor the memory of her late husband and Father’s friendship with him.
In and of itself, the Modesto painting is at best tangential to the case I’m building. But, Modesto’s Lovers actually becomes an integral part of the suspect/psychiatrist’s own Rorschach blot, revealing his personality and emotions…
The images below show a comparison of the crime scene photographs of Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short to 1935 surrealist photographs by Man Ray which depict his LOVERS in combination with a woman’s bisected body and his MINOTAURE again, showing a woman’s bisected body, with arms posed above her head, the elbows bent at 90′ angles, just as the killer has posed them at the crime scene.
Man Ray Les Amoureux (The Lovers) and Man Ray Minotaure
Below: Elizabeth Short body posed at vacant lot (1947)
GEORGE HODEL AND THE MARKETING OF FERNANDO MODESTO
In the months preceding my father’s death (May 1999) having returned to the United States, it was his plan to market and sell his vast Modesto Collection. (Over 1600 separate original drawings/paintings)
To that end, he began to prepare a high-gloss catalog describing the artist’s skills and talents. This catalog copy was not comprised of Modesto’s interpretations of his own art, but rather those of his patron, a pioneer in marketing, a businessman, and a psychiatrist. I quote from excerpts of father’s original brochure writings which interpret and describe his protege’s works:
By Dr. George Hodel
(Father, describing Modesto’s erotica from the 70s)
“They seem to have several levels of meaning. One level appears to reflect the artist’s views on the universality of the erotic drive, which impels all creatures and unites them in a cosmic identity”
(Father, describing Modesto’s admiration of Man Ray)
“Homage to Man Ray. Modesto has always greatly admired and has been inspired by, the work of Man Ray. He has collected many books on Man Ray, and often looks at these photos, paintings, and sculptures.”
(Author Note– To my layman’s ear, it sounds like we have some big-time “transference” here. I believe what we are hearing is not so much “the artist’s views” but rather those of his patron – George Hodel. It is Dr. Hodel who believes in “the universality of the erotic drive and is greatly inspired by the works of Man Ray.”
Fernando Modesto – Early Erotica
(From GHH collection of 1600 sketches/paintings. Some of these have never been publicly displayed and I include both erotic and non-erotica from his collection.)
Above seven Modesto drawings are from GHH collection to my knowledge six of them have never been shown publicly.
Photos and links to the artist, FERNANDO MODESTO:
Early photo of Fernando Modesto with Pablo Picasso (late Sixties/early Seventies?)
Delight in Fernando Modesto’s latest one-man show
Art critic and book author Cid Reyes mentioned this whimsical side of
Modesto in his review of the artist’s work: “Since Fernando Modesto burst in the art scene in 1977, his one abiding quality has been irreverence, but irreverence laced with zaniness and hilarity.”
Fernando Modesto spent his formative years at the College of Fine Arts in the University of Sto. Tomas and went on further studies at Central St. Martin’s School of Art and Design in London on a scholarship grant by the British Council. He has also been awarded the 13 Artists Award by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and won the top prize for printmaking by the Art Association of the Philippines in 1988. His works have been exhibited extensively internationally since the 1970s.
“Bliss From Bygone Days” will run from May 2 until May 18 at Globe Art Gallery, The Globe Tower, 32nd corner 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.