Critics’ Picks

Brad Phillips, Horror Part of Exhibition, 2019, oil on canvas, 30 x 24".

New York

Brad Phillips

Harper's Apartment
51 East 74th Street 2X
March 5–April 24

Seeing Brad Phillips’s new paintings here feels like stepping into a dream—though I couldn’t tell you whose. The pieces were made throughout long stretches of isolation, during which the artist would watch grim videos about unsolved murders and ghostly hauntings on YouTube. Everything in these canvases feels familiar—but they vibrate with purpose.

Some of Phillips’s images bear titles that articulate their roles in this new realm: In Horror Part of Exhibition, 2019, we look up at Halloween’s Michael Myers, canted angle and all, wielding a chef’s knife. The Actual Truth, 2019, is a painting of a note that reads “THE GREATEST ART IS TO ENDURE,” held up by a fat, blue thumbtack—a note to oneself, no doubt. In Sex Part of Exhibition From a Photo Taken of Me and Cristine, 2019, the artist has painted himself and his wife mid-coitus—a canvas that would seem excessive in any other context. But here the act is unsurprising, just another thing people do, like getting high, smelling flowers, or burning dinner.

Phillips’s oils are rendered with an attentiveness to casual beauty and riddled with humor. Cristine Without a Single Hair Out of Place, 2019, shows his spouse facing away from us. She’s wearing a lavender blouse, and its cascading sleeves are rife with delicious, baroque folds. She has two perfect braids that split the composition down the middle. This informal symmetry is echoed in three related pieces on a neighboring wall, The Most Beautiful Bird in the World #1–#3, 2018. Each canvas depicts the Bauhausian peacock that is NBC’s mascot, but mirrored horizontally, as if the creature were seeing its reflection in a pool of water. The twinning continues with The Enlightenment of Wilma Flintstone, 2018, a creamy impasto painting featuring the titular character in conversation with her double. We’re listening—don’t wake us up.