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REVIEW: KERRY PHILLIPS EXHIBITION AT THE BASS

Written By Douglas Markowitz
September 12, 2023 at 4:27 PM

View of the exhibition currently at The Bass, featuring works by Kerry Phillips. Photography by Zaire Aranguren. Image courtesy of The Bass, Miami Beach.

Making art out of found objects is far from a new idea. From Marcel Duchamp’s convention destroying readymades in the early 20th century to Lonnie Holley’s sculptures of industrial runoff and scrap metal, artists have long turned to the detritus of modern life for materials, whether out of philosophical intention or financial necessity (more than often a little of both).

Kerry Phillips, raised in rural Texas and now living in Miami, is only the latest artist to embrace found objects as artistic material. In interviews, she’s discussed the power that stories and sentimental value can hold in changing an ordinary thing into a talisman.

Phillips solicited donations from the Miami community to build the objects featured in her show at the Bass, “Between The Miraculous and the Mundane.” Dozens of small objects are mounted to a wall with clay: Scissors and whisks, lightbulbs and sunglasses, and a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez with a cover picture of Millais’ Ophelia. One can feel like Ariel from The Little Mermaid, in her cave surrounded by treasures from the surface world, knowing nothing of their (in)significance: “Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?”

What stories they tell, I can only surmise – the artist doesn’t really provide any concrete answers. Phillips’ found objects are less powerful on their own, stripped of any real context as to how they were significant. As assemblies, however, they collectively tell us one definitive truth, that we all have too much crap. The installations in the show feel rooted in a desire to bring order to a chaotic world. Carpet scraps are sewn together and placed on the walls like tapestries. A massive cube of discarded furniture, stacked Tetris-like, sits in the middle of the room monolithically, like a monument designed to refute our ending-is-better-than-mending culture of unfettered consumerism. The installations feel more anxious as we go deeper into the room: A scrap-wood hut with jars lining the wall and a CRT television on the floor feels like a doomsday prepper’s den.

“After the fall, before the knockdown (grandma’s ceiling). Artwork by Kerry Phillips. Photography by Zaire Aranguren. Image courtesy of The Bass, Miami Beach.

Near its entrance is the most nondescript, yet impactful piece of the show, a pile of drywall scraps, all with a carved, circular pattern, reclaimed from some South Florida house. The title is “After the fall, before the knockdown (grandma’s ceiling).” We have to ask, what’s falling? One house? Or something greater?

WHAT: “Kerry Phillips: Between The Miraculous and Mundane”

WHERE: The Bass Museum of Art, 2100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

WHEN: Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

COST: $15 general admission; $8 for seniors 65 & up, students with valid ID, and youth 7-18; free for members, Miami Beach residents and city employees with valid ID, active duty military personnel and and veterans, SNAP EBT cardholders, and disabled persons with caregiver.

INFO: thebass.org or 305-673-7530

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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