In Julia Phillips’s first solo museum exhibition, we catch a glimpse, in the abstract, of the brutal intersection of our lives with various medico-industrial structures that have tightened around modern life. Poles, large screws, tables, all redolent of hospital décor, stand or lie upon tile floors. Ceramic casts of body parts – faces, bellies and the female pelvis – hang from crude metal frameworks nailed into those tiles or hang upon the museum’s walls. The exhibition’s three rooms at once suggest a gruesome torture centre as much as they do an operating room under the tenure of some Salvador Dalí-inspired doctor (here faces and flesh lie where once he might have hung a clock), they also recall the explicit photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, as in Extruder (#1) (2017), in which the dark purple cast of a mouth swallows a pole; behind that face, a cast of an ass – with a gaping hole for an anus – extends upward on a metal wishbone. Gone is what’s between: us. What’s left is all there is: system. But Phillips exceeds Mapplethorpe in her own stark assessment of the body’s sex and shapeliness, as well as the biopolitics that determine their place (read function) in the world; her austere sculpture disentangles our parts from their whole to emphasize that, for fleeting flesh, only representation lasts.
- Andrew Durbin