’Most Wanted’ show by Richard Phillips, London
It’s rare to find images of the likes of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus emblazoned across wallpaper.com but, in the hands of artist Richard Phillips, they take on a curiously alluring new guise - as seen from his exhibition at London’s White Cube Hoxton Square.
The American artist is known for taking material from the realms of television, cinema, porn and advertising and translating it into glossy, hyperreal oil-paintings, using the meticulous techniques of Northern Renaissance painters. The resulting images are redolent with complex discourse on subjects like celebrity, sexuality and identity.
For White Cube, Phillips has chosen ten famous names, which also include Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake and Kristen Stewart, and depicted them with red carpet-perfect smiles against branded ’step and repeat’ backdrops. Each subject is given a bright halo around their image, in reference to Richard Bernstein’s illustrations for Interview Magazine, emphasising their deity-like celebrity status, while strangely flattening their image, morphing them into the brands they stand before.
Placing these icons of mass culture in a high art setting is cleverly jarring. It makes the show’s message about the subservience of artistic endeavours to the dominant presence of celebrity endorsement all the more potent. And the sheer scale of the portraits - at almost two-and-a-half metres tall - is unnerving in itself - heightened by the blank perfection of the faces that stare back at you.