It’s incredible the amount of detail and pressure of layering that Pat Phillips puts into a piece of paper. It’s almost as if eras and decades of influences and subconscious thoughts on each work, perhaps why he wanted to showcase a drawing show of works on paper as his first solo show since relocating to Philadelphia in 2020. M+B Gallery, where Pat Phillips: Untitled (Works on Paper) will be on view at their Doheny space from May 15 through June 19, 2021, mentions an underlying anxiety of the pandemic as the backdrop of this work. And you can tell: in re-thinking our relationship to each other and ourselves during the last year, there is a sense that we all combed through our memory bank for a mixture of worry and nostalgia. 

Yet it’s not just about the pandemic, or those thoughts of collective unease through sickness. This show is like a visual diary of a year; almost like Pat created works based on the day’s news, or the innocuous act of binge-watching culture going by. When I saw Wearing a mask at the bar in Port Richmond might get you beat up, with Moe from the Simpsons in the background and hyper-aware stream of consciousness title, the thought-process becomes clear: these are the moments underneath the headlines that made our year. The past presidency made it difficult to navigate what was really happening in this country, and Pat’s new drawings understand that there are so many layers to the complicated process of both having your world slow down whilst simultaneously being thrown at hyper-speed with technology and pop-culture. 

When Phillips work was selected into the 2019 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, it was moment that solidified a certain style of figurative art that was born from graffiti but had moved into a completely new realm. Pat said of his work, “My work explores my personal experiences, while correlating ideas between culture and subculture,” and with Untitled (Works on Paper), the balance between both elements is as clear as ever. —Evan Pricco