Richard Phillips - Galerie Max Hetzler

Galerie Max Hetzler is pleased to present new work by American artist Richard Phillips. The exhibition consists of two large-format paintings: a seven-part portrait of self-help guru Deepak Chopra, and a single image portrait of film star Demi Moore. Together the portraits represent a meditation on the dubious relationship between spirituality and materialism in today's image-conscious world.

Deepak (2003) is Phillips' largest painting to date. At approximately 8 meters by 2 meters, the spiritual counselor is larger than life and utterly undeniable. Chopra's face is repeated seven times, a reference to his bestselling book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success which is a guide to unlimited wealth and happiness. Chopra's marketing of spirituality and cult of personality are exposed here.

The size and composition of the painting invite the viewer to consider the process of picture-making. The repetition of Deepak's face prevents a coherent reading of the painting, as it is physically impossible to take in all seven figures at once. As the image breaks down, the formal elements from which the figure is constructed emerge.

The image of Demi Moore is taken from the actress's official autograph card for the film St. Elmo's Fire (1985). Her pose, head tilted to the side, hands together in prayer position, is reminiscent of the Christian Madonna. She invites the viewer's respect and reverence, and serves as an icon of her age. This interest in pop icons runs through the work of Richard Phillips and links his work to that of Andy Warhol and Chuck Close.

But Demi's holy stance is sullied by the facts of her career. Referred to by some as Give Me Moore, the actress was once the highest paid woman in her profession. In order to obtain her high salaries she has marketed herself mercilessly. With her image Phillips alludes to the absurdity of a consumer culture that elevates individuals to such a position and the excess that drives it.

The installation of the paintings indicates an important link between the two pop figures. The actress and spiritual advisor are positioned across from one another so that they appear to be in dialogue. In fact, Demi has sat on Deepak's board of advisors for his center in California and refers to him as her personal 'guru'. Ironically, it seems that her devotion is inspired by a desire to retain her youthful appearance, a promise that Deepak makes with his products such as 'Ageless Body, Timeless Mind'.

Formally the paintings are also in dialogue. The colour scheme establishes a conceptual link between the images and encourages a critical view of those depicted. Deepak is painted solely in earth tones, signaling his supposed holistic approach to life, whereas the palette for Demi is completely artificial. She is painted using quinacridone violet, a man-made color that does not come from a natural source. With this installation Phillips signals the importance of the image in America's media-driven society and challenges the viewer to take a closer look at the implications of image production today.

Richard Phillips, born in 1963, lives and works in New York City. He has exhibited internationally in both group and solo shows, including recent shows at the Hamburger Kunstverein, Hamburg, and White Cube, London. In 2000, Phillips's paintings were exhibited at the Zurich Kunsthalle, Zurich. The artist's works on paper will be the subject of a comprehensive survey at Le Consortium, Dijon, in 2005. This is his second solo show with Galerie Max Hetzler.

For more information, please contact the gallery at 030.2404.5630, or visit our website at Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm.