Julia Phillips creates sculptures that resemble tools or devices. Their titles describe the functions of these instruments and the physical and psychological toll they could inflict: Penetrator, Exoticizer, Muter.
Pairing ceramic elements with metal armatures, Phillips references the human form in her work through casts and physical impressions of her own body. However, the body is never depicted in full, allowing viewers room to imagine their own participation and complicity in the acts suggested by her sculptures. Drawing upon a range of influences, from functional objects (furniture, armor) to Black feminist thought and theory, she underscores the body and the psyche as sites upon which power and control are routinely enacted and claimed.
Comprised of three new sculptures and one installation, “New Album” represents a change in tone for the artist, focusing on interactions entered into willingly, such as negotiation and mediation. For the first time, Phillips positions the interacting parties symmetrically, highlighting the mutual nature of these works.
“Julia Phillips creates objects that threaten to do something. Although made with elegant restraint, her works are at once menacing and attractive. They are simple and efficient forms, yet they suggest complex scenarios. Combinations of extreme psychic, social, and physical situations and interactions are evoked by her sculptures.”
Negotiator (#1), 2020
“The theories that feed my interest are colonial histories, gender studies, Black feminist thought, psychoanalysis, and questions of belonging. The conceptual framework my work originates from is about observations of relations. Oppressive, codependent, but also supportive.”
“Because the functionality of an object serves as a metaphor and a play with imagination, I think of the tools and apparatuses as being in a passive state. They are nonactivated devices, almost like domestic tools hanging in a broom closet. The fragility of ceramics also negates actual use.”
Observer II, 2020
“I think part of my desire is to give the psyche a visual, nonverbal language, and a voice that can be heard by a broad range of audiences, ideally. What we do with what we hear is our own responsibility.”
Oppressor with Soul, In Treatment & Suppressor with Spirit, In Treatment, 2020