new-york

Tom Phillips, A Humument, Page 71, Version 2, 2010, pen, pencil, and watercolor on paper, 8 × 5 1/4".

Tom Phillips

Flowers | New York

Tom Phillips, A Humument, Page 71, Version 2, 2010, pen, pencil, and watercolor on paper, 8 × 5 1/4".

In 1966, at age twenty-nine, Tom Phillips began his Humument project, the “treatment” of the 1892 novel A Human Document, by the Victorian author William Hurrell Mallock. The first artist’s book that resulted was initially published in 1973 and has now gone through five editions; Phillips began a second version in 1980 and continues to work on it to this day. To create these treatments, the artist removed each page from Mallock’s novel and subjected it to playful editing, surgically removing blocks of text to form an Apollinaire-like shaped poem—or, rather, a Mallarmé-like throw of the verbal dice. Sometimes Phillips’s treated pages borrow from pop-culture imagery, sometimes old photographs are used, and sometimes figures are painted on the page. Each page has been worked and reworked, yet it all looks random and informal, as though Phillips had a divining rod that suddenly

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the November 2015 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.