Hubert Phipps

Runs from March 16 – May 18, 2019
Artist Reception – Thursday, March 21 • 6 p.m.
Open to the Public

March 16 – May 18, 2019

HUBERT PHIPPS

“I like things that are different.  That is what fascinates me about abstract art; the mystery of it.  For the most part I think I know what I am looking at as I go about my daily routine, and that is reassuring.  Especially when I am out navigating the byways and the skyways.  Yet I yearn to discover new worlds, otherworldly type worlds that are lurking in the deeper recesses of the mind.  I glimpse these worlds from time to time.  It may come in the middle of the night, a vision, unidentifiable, yet lovely shapes appear, and I don’t have a clue what they are.  What is so tantalizing to me is the endless possibilities of what they can be, and I feel compelled to flesh them out and capture them on paper, on canvas, or as a 3D object.

To me, the most powerful art is that which connects within me before I even start or analyze it through thought.  It is not anything I can understand or describe by thinking but something that when I look at it I am filled with awe and wonderment.  This is what I experience when I stand in the presence of the great works of art that have come before.

Creating art is my opportunity to experience the realm of the abstract mind in a very inmate way.  From a practical standpoint the challenge is in transforming that vision into physical form.  This is what goes on in the studio.  With the strokes that I change and adjust constantly until it gives me that mysterious quality that I am looking for.  The sculpture usually starts with a sketch but goes through its own metamorphosis necessary in converting the 2D drawing to a 3D object.  During this process I strive to create beauty, balance and other aesthetic elements but somehow the work always takes on a life of its own.  It just seems to happen despite the endless struggles I experience through the creative process.

In the end I am an observer as much as anything else.”

  • -Hubert Phipps

HUBERT PHIPPS/Art Hive/Winter 2017
 Sculptural Drawing: Artist Hubert Phipps Takes a Quantum Leap Forward
By Bruce Helander

No one knows for sure, but it’s a pretty good guess that the first three-dimensional objects likely were molded out of wet clay and meant to be used as small vessels to hold water or other items. As humankind continued to cultivate skills that required a more sophisticated degree of eye and hand coordination, narrative forms resembling human figures probably surfaced as well. History shows us that these objects and some of the earliest known cave art were made by the Aurignacian culture, which was based in Europe and southwest Asia and active at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic era.

Sculpture, for the most part, found its inspiration in the human form, whether giant abstracted heads like those found on Easter Island or carved wooden totems by Native Americans. Early sculptors, even in ancient Greece, usually were tradesmen whose work often was unsigned, and they did not share the prestige of literati painting, nor did they enjoy the same financial rewards, despite the effort involved. With the advent of the Renaissance, things started looking a lot better for sculptors, as they gained fame, respect and income, and artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci finally got their due. It’s interesting to note that the collecting of sculpture, including that of earlier periods, goes back some 2,000 years in China and Mesoamerica, and many of these collections were available on semi-public display long before the modern museum came about.

As sculptural shapes became more sophisticated and artists began formal studio schooling as de rigueur, the idea of carefully planning ahead became a prerequisite, and before any attempt at laboriously carving out a huge granite block or the trunk of a tree was attempted, exploratory drawings, most usually done with a charcoal stick on paper, were utilized in advance as a blueprint for a sound and well-thought out sculptural form. This method is obvious particularly in the early drawings of Henry Moore, whose studies for his amorphic forms are now quite valuable as a scholarly resource and as an investment. Bernar Venet’s sweeping charcoal sketches of curved arches were utilized by foundries around the world to accurately generate his monumental work. Chicago’s most famous public sculpture, created by Pablo Picasso, first was articulated in pencil and then transferred to a small-scale maquette, which was presented to the Windy City for consideration, and upon approval was manufactured in the United States. One other celebrated sculptor, Claes Oldenburg, had a delightful flair for original whimsical drawings, such as Spoonbridge and Cherry, which morphed into a giant, delicious large-scale sculpture installation at the Walker Art Center, and many of these have become treasures for major museums and contemporary collectors, as well as the original sculpture.

Hubert Phipps, the sculptor whose extraordinary Virginia studio has yielded remarkable works, follows standard operating procedures with carefully fashioned charcoal and pencil preliminary drawings as fabrication guidelines for his hand-built and foundry-cast sculptures. He has amassed an impressive visual vocabulary of aggressive drawings, which like Moore’s famous studies for sculpture, stand on their own. In Phipps’ new series of bold black charcoal drawings, the artist has explored a magical combination of convincing illusion and overlapping space connected with an idiosyncratic style that is fresh and professional.

Hubert Phipps also demonstrates in this remarkable new series his ability to handle a powerful and engaging composition that appears to be solidly three-dimensional even on paper. His academic background and years of diligent drafting practice have fostered a distinctive maturity and a dazzling identifiable pictorial panache that, like the majority of successful sculptors, is the first completed step towards the realization of a cast sculptural form. Often as Phipps develops a drawing from scratch and then “builds” an internal structure outward, they grow exponentially, as the artist makes compositional decisions while the gestures mature and become final. Like Willem de Kooning, Phipps commences this drawing process with a simple line that he continues to enhance in all directions, much like the expansion of a grand oak tree, which starts with a trunk and grows in all directions as its branches multiply. From a distance, Quantum Universe might look like a distant, levitating space colony with extended landing platforms and interlocking interior tunnels. However, from a critical point of view, these are high caliber, non-narrative modernist sketches that the artist has rendered with ingenious erasures in strategic locations that seem to push and pull the viewer in, out and around the drawing. Another stylistic ingredient is some of the ghost lines deliberately left partially erased but recognizable, and the interlocking flow of forms, almost puzzle parts from the Jetsons’ spaceport, with a characteristic common denominator. The process eventually not only becomes a referential maquette for a cast sculpture, but the drawing as a work of art is a delightful companion as well. An exhibition of these works, titled “Drawings for Sculpture,” will be on view at the Center for Creative Education in West Palm Beach February 9 – March 17, 2018.

This winter, Phipps also will have a residency at the New York Studio School and will open a career survey of drawings and sculpture at the Coral Springs Museum of Art in March 2019. For more information, please go to: www.hubertphipps.com.

—Bruce Helander is an artist who writes on art. He is the former Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the Rhode Island School of Design; a former White House Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts; and a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

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