It was a fortuitous coincidence that Guy Debord's Situationist masterpiece Society of the Spectacle was on view at Exit Art the same week that Richard Phillips exhibition of luscious cover-girly paintings opened at Thorp. In between subtitles of Debord's quasii-marxist narration and industrial films were stills of semi-naked babes - the commodification of beauty and pleasure? the spectacle that keeps us enslaved to those who hold the means to production? Some pictures that Debord liked to keep under the mattress for nights when detournement just wouldn't do?
These women make an appearance in Phillips paintings, perhaps in a PG rated form (no frontal nudity). Culled from fashion and popular magazines of the late sixties and early seventies, these women are iconic beauties, detached from context and contact, and extremely difficult to deal with (if one is an adolescent female with low self-esteem). Phillips re-presents his subjects with even more slickness, more artificiality, than originally given; the integrity of the iconic nature of the subject (objects?) of these paintings begins to stretch out to a transparent thinness - as unreal as the original images were, the painted images become little more than apparitions of our fantasy life as an ideal consumer. It's a summer stock restaging of the Spectacle on which Debord is so fixated, starring Twiggy and the rest of the fabulous disembodied faces, with featured guest stars the silver naked woman and the Persian cat.
The paintings are mostly of the perfectly-painted variety. It's where the underlying grids start showing that makes the whole assortment particularly attractive in that way. The visual suggestion of the painter's emotionally remote stance vis-a-vis his subject is laid bare, resulting in relief that yes, these women are not real, just exercises in painting. Visually groovy exercises.
PS: Insecure women over forty have been known to flee from the sight of these
more about twiggy, please