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Radical Honesty

Depleted of their optimism, three grumpy looking sunflowers—one equipped with a smartphone—stare at a nearby silhouette who is watering his lifeless garden. A boot steps down on the hose and a sense of apocalyptic doom hangs in the air, yet the agitated flowers have broken through cold concrete in resilience. Painted in nuanced hues of orange and yellow, Pat Phillips’ Watering While Black / Get The Fuck Off My Lawn, 2023, captures a world of decay and division. The painting is part of the artist’s current solo exhibition “It Was Sunny, but Then It Started to Rain” at P·P·O·W in New York.‍

Raised in a small town in Louisiana, Phillips’ roots in graffiti inform his distinct, layered style of figuration. His early experiences of photographing and painting boxcars helped awaken his artistic intuition. By incorporating well-known brand names and mass-produced goods in his intricate works—such as sneakers and Gucci handbags—the artist often investigates the American obsession with objects and their many purposes. His critique of the current political, social, and cultural climates is reflected in distorted presentations of institutions and figures that contain multifaceted allusions to racism and xenophobia.

In addition to Phillips’ large-scale paintings, “It Was Sunny, but Then It Started to Rain” features several works on paper. Untitled (See You Tomorrow Barney!? / Don’t Forget to Visit Our Gift Shop), 2021, illustrates how the artist transforms classic cartoons through dark humor. In it, a smiling Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble shake hands against a background reminiscent of the events that occurred at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021. Flinstone with his black eye and Rubble’s bruised left arm covered by a Band-Aid, their roles remain undefined. Throughout the scenes on display, Phillips’ cast of characters and objects are framed by uncensored intensity, and democracy is fractured and exposed by his tension-filled strokes.

It Was Sunny, but Then It Started to Rain” is on display through June 22, 2024, at P·P·O·W Gallery at 392 Broadway New York, NY 10013.