The delicate gouache works on paper in Joseph Phillips’ current body of work are subtly satirical explorations of utopian ersatz. These darkly humorous and visually compelling drawings are also beautifully rendered works in their own right.
The works in this series depict pre-fabricated land units that could theoretically be dropped into their place in affluent suburban sprawl. They parody the privatization of previously public lands, and riff off of commodified and formulaic communities which cater to the über-wealthy seeking exclusive refuge from their surroundings. Cross sections of glaciers, beaches, mountains, and fun parks are pre-packaged for the convenience of the buyer, but where the property line ends, so do all the elements. Water ends in mid-air, and amusement park rides precariously disappear.
Phillips uses a specific and limited palette of
soothing colors for his counterfeit environments to reference the consumer aspect
of his modular land units, not unlike images in a catalogue. Leaving out the
unattractive colors in found in the natural world, he selects only nature’s
more enticingly delightful hues of gentle tranquility so that each elite land
buyer can create their own artificial Shangri-La with ease.
In ‘Pardon our Progress’ artist Phillips examines the landscape, and specifically our impact on nature through recent drawings, sculpture, and installation. The work investigates our tendency to supplant the infinite reality of nature with an over-simplified, commodified, streamlined or synthetic version. Delicate gouache, ink and graphite drawings bring to mind internet product shots, or cartoonish scientific renderings where all but the central sliver of subject has been removed.