Monday, May 19, 2008

Patrick Phipps' "It Took The Night to Believe" @ Domy Books, Houston: May 9-June 27

A long time ago, my niece got this thing for Christmas that was something like the Visible Man anatomy model. Except this was just a visible head, kinda. It was clearly not meant for educational purposes; if you pushed a button, viscous green goo would trickle from its nose. I think all of the orifices did something of the same nature, but I remember the runny nose the best. My niece was like, "Cool!" I hadn't seen anyone get so worked up over a toy like that since a Power Ranger.

It fascinated me and weirded me out simultaneously, but, like my niece, I was like, "Cool!"

I had the same feeling when I studied Patrick Phipps' new sculptures in It Took the Night to Believe over at the Domy Bookstore. The sculptures, fashioned from plaster bandages, newspaper, masking tape, airbrush colors, acrylic paint, gesso, and model railroad landscaping supplies, have this odd fragility and a distinctly human quality. That is, if you're human and you've just been knocked around enough to require medical attention, and then, having gotten it, you had a dozen more mishaps.

It's interesting how his work has evolved from his drawings and paintings. His 2D stuff always had a rough, visceral feel; the way he let his paint drip, and his use of graphic materials and subject matter, done with such painterly flair, was done with such immediacy, you always knew you weren't far away from the artist himself.

One gets the same feeling here, but one also gets the feeling that, perhaps because they each have such a presence, that these are a band of Phipps' monstrous, misshapen, but still treasured children.

Phipps admits to having been influenced by both Franz West and Rachel Harrison, but I think there's more West here. Harrison's work has that blobbed-out look to it, but she tends, especially lately, to coat her objects with layer upon layer of paint, and I like Phipps' work more in this respect. (Keep in mind, people, that I spent a month in RachelHarrisonville, and I'm pretty sick of her stuff.) Phipps' work feels, despite its blobby misshapen quality, extremely delicate and fragile.

I hadn't seen Patrick's work for a while, and was really looking forward to seeing what he's been up to. It Took the Night to Believe came as a real surprise--like, Ewww, Cool.