American artist Richard Phillips' billboard-sized hyperrealist portraits of celebrities and politicians comment on contemporary culture and its fixations.Read More
Phillips was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He received his BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1984 and his MFA from the Yale School of Art in 1986.
Richard Phillips' oeuvre is characterised by large-scale hyperrealist paintings that depict famous figures sourced from advertisements, fashion spreads, and pornography, commenting on the contemporary obsession with sex, death, and power.
In his solo exhibition Most Wanted (2011), Phillips painted headshots of ten easily recognisable American celebrities posing on the red carpet in front of branded backdrops at film premieres and award shows. These two-metre-high works fixate on these celebrities' rehearsed expressions when faced with cameras during these events. Phillips additionally decorates these figures with what appears to be a halo surrounding their heads, pointing towards their star quality while distilling their relationships with the brands that frame them. The personalities painted in this exhibition included young stars such as Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and Dakota Fanning, among others.
Aside from actors and pop stars, Phillips has also painted figures relating to politics. He previously painted former U.S. president George W. Bush in his work The President of the United States of America (2001). This painting features a monochromatic portrait of Bush in front of an American flag, with two pink panels on either side. In LRA (2006), Phillips portrays what seems to be a young member of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.
In rendering readily available imagery into skillful paintings, Phillips imbibes new meaning into these images. Apart from a commentary on contemporary mainstream culture, Phillips' paintings also reflect on the delineations between high and low culture, tabloids, and fine art.
Phillips has also employed film as a medium, whose outcomes are likened to 'motion portraits'. In 2011, he created the two films Lindsay Lohan (2011) and Sasha Grey (2011), both of which premiered at the Venice Biennale in the same year. In these 90-second stylistic films, the two actresses pose in front of different scenes: Lohan in a pool and Grey in a home designed by modernist architect John Lautner.
His third film, First Point (2012), was created in collaboration with American surf filmmaker Taylor Steele and again featured Lohan. First Point (2012) juxtaposed footage of Lohan along with pro-surfer Kassia Meador, who worked as Lohan's stunt double for the film.
Richard Phillips has held solo exhibitions at The Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Dallas Contemporary; and Kunstverein Hamburg, Germany. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the FLAG Art Foundation, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; and MoMA PS1. His work has been collected by major institutions such as San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Richard Phillips' Instagram can be found here.
Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2022