Graduate Seminar Fall 2022
I am currently creating work that considers the question, are Americans who inhabit black bodies being relegated to second-class citizenry? My work is informed by my personal experiences and current events involving excessive police violence, as well as racist-oriented and divisive political diatribes.
My work illuminates experiences that reflect some of the dysfunction of our systems that are expected to protect and empower a citizen by confronting these social failings, oppressiveness, and media misrepresentations. I make sculptural works and installations integrating steel, wood, molded materials, 3D printing, video, and 2D prints. My design concept aims to pique my audience's curiosity through repetitious use of a familiar form in unusual and abstract ways.
Enter the Metahum (/meh-tah 'hume/)
The pyramid form and the inverted pyramid, are specific to my works. Specific in a way that essentially requires that I find a particular nomenclature for referring to the form when it is part of my works. The forms are a sort of metaphysical abstraction for humanity within my works. As surrogates for humans, they also have meaning representing the fundamental 'black' or 'people of color' and 'white' in socio-political discourse. For now, I'll be referring to the form as a metahum.
Spending time ruminating upon the many ways I could represent a human figure, I was listening to a talk about some of the work and studies done by Alberto Giacometti. And one thing that seemed important to me, also seemed important to him. It was important to me to simplify my narrative, and as I considered ways that I might accomplish that, I realized that I could also simplify how I referred o the human subject in my work. Giacometti seems to have spent a great deal of time attempting to find the most basic way to represent the subject in some of his works...His blockish sculptural portraits of his father were also somewhat geometric in that they had shape similar to that of a cube.
It occurred to me at that time that although I did not necessarily want to make abstract art, in the mathematical sense I was able to consider that I was trying to simplify representation of humanity. Mathematically, abstraction is the process of extracting the underlying structures, patterns or properties of a mathematical concept. Accordingly, I could apply that same approach and so I did. What I came up with was a fundamental concept of what each human represents in a hyper-generalized sense. A human representing a center of will or power could be abstracted as an object that has a perceived intrinsic will or power despite the world around it. Then, I eventually thought of the pyramid when I thought about what objects humanity has broadly considered as having intrinsic power. Hence, my choice to develop my art narrative around this form. When sitting on its base, the power it has is projected and apparent, if it is positioned such as to be attempting to stand on its apex, then that power seems to be defeated.
It is my goal to continue to develop a compelling expression built upon this simple but powerful form.
This semester, as a continuation of my summer, I intend to continue to grow my ability to make work that expresses more, in a visual and spacial sense, while understanding better how to connect materiality and the underlying narrative to the works. My work goals for this semester are to complete, and photograph some sculptural works began in the spring of this year. Along with that work, I also am working through an investigation I began around the summer of 2021. My work has a minimalist sense about it, and I am investigating various mediums and techniques that will allow me to express some of my ideas 2 dimensionally.
This semester I'm expecting to complete 3-4 prints, a video, and 4 sculptural artworks. My 3D works are part of a series which I plan to continue to extend, and the prints together with the video are a new aspect of the investigation I have been pursuing since the summer of 2021. Connecting the contemporary flavor of geometrical graphics to my 3D works seems like an interesting connection to make, along with a plan to explore a few printmaking ideas using ink and newspaper over the winter break. Here are some remnants of my investigation this fall...
Another way that I can build up the narrative is using a series of prints. These prints presented as a triptych or possibly in quad, will together do the job. Here below is one frame of the series of 24x36" prints I am currently calling Hope ... There is a scintilation sort of effect created by this geometric arrangement of metahums. There is also a visual compelling-ness that relates to the large number of repeating shapes, and the optical illusion of depth, which I think makes this piece successful.
During the semester, rather than focus on single executions of each piece, I've been exploring execution of some of the pieces in different materials. The concept for these pieces is that they are themselves part of a series of awards. The series is currently titled American Spirit Awards and consists of 4 pieces.
The pieces are minimalist visually, however, the textures and lines which make up the forms are what will be aesthetically most interesting. One piece will appear to be cast in bronze, another will be unclear and enigmatic to a degree as its texture will not be familiar. This is what I hope to entertain the viewer with, leading them then to discover at some later point what the narrative is.
For all but the table, the initial execution was in wood. The wood forms will be refined and finished. However, I decided to explore other methods and materials. Such as, a two part plastic that I will modify with additives such as colorants and other materials.
Aside from exploring materials which render different feelings, I am continuing to explore materiality as it relates to the narrative behind each piece.
Getting closer to completion, there are many more material options I can try, but will only try one more for now. And then work on photographing the pieces.
American Spirit Awards
I've left a spot above for the one missing piece that I am in the process of making. Playing Field is the 4th piece. I'll focus upon having 4 pieces, the prints, and the video ready for final critique. And if there is enough time, I've got the starting materials, I'll get started on my WINTER piece Free Market.
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Rob J Phillips