'Joseph Phillips & Shawn Smith'

Two artists make dazzling use of artifice to explore and explode the artificial

Arts Review

'Joseph Phillips & Shawn Smith'

D Berman Gallery, 1701 Guadalupe, 477-8877 www.dbermangallery.com

Through Oct. 9

Joseph Phillips wants to sell you a little piece of Barbados to enhance your deepest Antarctica. Shawn Smith is capturing fire and fauna in pixels that exist in the wood beyond your

computer's seductive screen. D Berman Gallery, no less elegant than ever, has become a real-estate emporium and roadside zoo in presenting this latest pairing of exhibits.

The commodification of the land, the digitization of the meatspace world: These continue apace, and the pace accelerates, and the rate of acceleration itself accelerates as we watch the years go by. The result of an artistic process is often a freeze-frame vision of life's relentless movie, and what better stilled image than one in which artifice is in the service of exploring or exploding the artificial?

Phillips prepares precise gouache paintings of land units optimized for comfort and convenience, with miniature, compartmentalized lagoons cuddling up to split-level bungalows outfitted with Just the Right Number of Palm Trees and vertical landscapes that accommodate – that generate, even – multiple climate options. Need a retail storefront that doubles as a seaside hideaway? This draftsman has just what you're looking for – now with beach umbrellas! Like when you're a kid and you draw the Ultimate House according to your freestyle kid-o-vision, so Phillips has, in clever (and lovely to behold) piece after clever (and archly satirical) piece, arranged geology and architecture toward the fantasies of capitalist control.

Smith brings the world of animals through the looking-glass of digital media and out the other side. It would be impressive enough – both the bare visuals and the deeper connotations – if the artist merely used such modern technology as necessary to create his sculptures of pixilated birds and antelopes and so on, but that he figures each piece out with pencil on graph paper and then cuts and paints the wooden bits, painstakingly, by hand ... well, there comes a time when sheer craftsmanship can make you shake your head in amazement, and this is one of those times. This is several of those times, actually, as you stare at Smith's life-size fox scampering up one wall, at the big vulture perched all baldly crimson and obsidian-feathered upon an exploded antique typewriter, at the many-fingered burst of flame caught mid-blaze within a delicate, wickery birdcage. The medium of what we call the natural world: first made unreally vicarious through the miracle of film, television, and the Internet, now returned to the real and immediate in what might be some ultimate segment of Marshall McLuhan's Wild Kingdom.

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Joseph Phillips, Shawn Smith, D Berman Gallery

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