“Like a fleeting dream that escapes the mind upon waking, leaving just a glimmer of feeling or a trace of a past sensation, Phillip Gabriel’s paintings serve as a container for the evanescent. Moody cloudscapes, a masked face, and a limb stabilized by metal pins are familiar yet difficult to pin down, fragments of images plucked from the ether, selected for their specific indistinction rather than symbolic power. These are images that are seemingly agnostic to their sources. Where they come from does not necessarily contribute additional meanings to the overall compositions. In fact, the notion of a source generates further confusion. In keeping to his original reference images, Gabriel faithfully renders the low res glory of the screengrabs he makes from YouTube and other platforms. Here, the original is still a copy—likely a compressed file that has been illicitly uploaded—and the source is merely an aggregator of content created by others elsewhere. By meticulously recreating the resolution of the reference image through paint Gabriel emphasizes the mode in which images are distributed, whether that is by digital means or physical publication. His practice points to a kind of floating world in which images operate, and remind him of how “dreams or memories come in and out of focus, or consciousness… these paintings are like windows or screens, perceived through a haze that comes and go.”
Gabriel works with images on the move—ones that are printed, streamed, or shared—but that does not mean he operates from an ahistorical perspective. His work draws upon the Pictures generation of appropriation artists who, starting in the late 1970s, made use of and critiqued images from the media and how they impacted society. Douglas Crimp, who defined this group of artists through his 1977 group show Pictures and related essay, describes how in Jack Goldstein’s work, “performance becomes just one of a number of ways of ‘staging’ a picture” in which “the presentation of an event in such a manner and at such a distance that it is apprehended as representation”.2 Gabriel emphasizes the representation of images within his paintings by staying faithful to the high or low resolution of his references. He also makes explicit how his own work operates as a stage for pictures. The broad color fields that envelope the representative elements of his compositions suggest a conceptual distancing between the disparate imagery assembled on a single canvas and between the artist and subject matter. The swaths of yellow, maroon, or royal blue, do not so much help tie imagery together, but rather act as a level stage to support the different elements Gabriel has selected and rendered by hand. – exerpt from Stages by Christopher Lew
WINDOW MAKER is the first monograph published of Gabriel’s work.
- 11 3/4 × 9 inches, Portrait
- Hardcover with dustjacket, 74 pages
- Text by Christopher Lew
- First printing, February 2023