Phillips wants to sell you a little piece of Barbados to enhance
your deepest Antarctica. Shawn Smith is capturing fire and fauna
in pixels that exist in the wood beyond your computer's seductive
screen. D Berman Gallery, no less elegant than ever, has become
a real-estate emporium and roadside zoo in presenting this latest
pairing of exhibits.
The commodification of the land, the digitization of the meatspace
world: These continue apace, and the pace accelerates, and the
rate of acceleration itself accelerates as we watch the years
go by. The result of an artistic process is often a freeze-frame
vision of life's relentless movie, and what better stilled image
than one in which artifice is in the service of exploring or
exploding the artificial?
Phillips prepares precise gouache paintings of land units optimized
for comfort and convenience, with miniature, compartmentalized
lagoons cuddling up to split-level bungalows outfitted with
Just the Right Number of Palm Trees and vertical landscapes
that accommodate – that generate, even – multiple climate options.
Need a retail storefront that doubles as a seaside hideaway?
This draftsman has just what you're looking for – now with beach
umbrellas! Like when you're a kid and you draw the Ultimate
House according to your freestyle kid-o-vision, so Phillips
has, in clever (and lovely to behold) piece after clever (and
archly satirical) piece, arranged geology and architecture toward
the fantasies of capitalist control.
Smith brings the world of animals through the looking-glass
of digital media and out the other side. It would be impressive
enough – both the bare visuals and the deeper connotations –
if the artist merely used such modern technology as necessary
to create his sculptures of pixilated birds and antelopes and
so on, but that he figures each piece out with pencil on graph
paper and then cuts and paints the wooden bits, painstakingly,
by hand ... well, there comes a time when sheer craftsmanship
can make you shake your head in amazement, and this is one of
those times. This is several of those times, actually, as you
stare at Smith's life-size fox scampering up one wall, at the
big vulture perched all baldly crimson and obsidian-feathered
upon an exploded antique typewriter, at the many-fingered burst
of flame caught mid-blaze within a delicate, wickery birdcage.
The medium of what we call the natural world: first made unreally
vicarious through the miracle of film, television, and the Internet,
now returned to the real and immediate in what might be some
ultimate segment of Marshall McLuhan's Wild Kingdom.
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