interview by OLIVIER ZAHM
all artworks courtesy of the artist
OLIVIER ZAHM - As one of your pictures says on Instagram, you love your wife. What role does she play in your work, besides being photographed by you?
BRAD PHILLIPS - It's hard to define what role Cristine Brache plays in my work. The word "muse" is sexist and archaic, and I can not stand it. I've painted a few times, photographed her a lot more. I think more than anything, Cristine is a really good artist and writer, and I think being exposed to her brain and the way she makes her own work. Her work is very nuanced and subversive. If anything, I think that I'm going to have a better experience and make better work.
OLIVIER ZAHM - Dear Art World, you broke my heart? Let us know why and when?
BRAD PHILLIPS - It's kind of a joke. I came back for a few years, between 2010 and 2013. When I came back, things were so different. I really quickly learned that art, you have to keep your name circulating. You're not allowed to take a break or vanish for a few years. So, when I came back in 2013, I came back from scratch again.
OLIVIER ZAHM - Do you like painting? What kind, and why?
BRAD PHILLIPS - I like a lot of painting, and maybe 1% of paintings being made now. I'm pretty much obsessed with some works made in Europe between 1895 and 1915. That's the golden period of painting for me. I like that painting is a way to articulate emotions and ideas that is not sufficient to communicate. I really can not stand the process of making my own paintings, but I like them when they're finished. Painting is a necessarily masochistic act.
OLIVIER ZAHM - Are you affected by sexual life?
BRAD PHILLIPS - No. Outside of a show I had at Bjarne Melgaard's gallery in Oslo in 2015, which was entirely about my life (at Bjarne's request that I make the "most perverted show" possible), maybe 5% of my total output as a painter has anything to do with sex. I think those paintings are just given more attention as a few people make work about sex. But I do not think of my work as being sexual. My work is about my life, and some of my life is about sex.
OLIVIER ZAHM - How often do you leave your apartment?
BRAD PHILLIPS - Not very often. I go to the store to buy cigarettes and Gatorade. I go to a traditional Chinese massage place twice a week. Cristine and I go to a movie We went to the horse on the weekend. I do not go to art openings or anything like that. Both of us are pretty inside. We go to the park when it's nice, but mostly we tend to stay inside. Outside is noisy and crowded, and too many people are walking little dogs or riding their bikes on the sidewalk.
OLIVIER ZAHM - Why are you married?
BRAD PHILLIPS - I like the idea of the piece of paper. I like the idea of our relationship being certified by the government. Of being legally united. Of being a team. Marriage is intense and complicated and spiritual, and that all appeals to me.
OLIVIER ZAHM - Are you influenced by fashion or fashion
photography, or not at all?
BRAD PHILLIPS - Not at all.
OLIVIER ZAHM - Do you think a painting can be funny?
BRAD PHILLIPS - I fucking hope so. I try to make funny paintings all the time. I just made a watercolor that says, "One man's garbage is always so much another man's garbage, too." I think that's a funny thing to make, and I'm trying to make it work. bleak.
OLIVIER ZAHM - It seems clear on your Instagram that you are
painting pictures you have taken. But do you exhibit the
photographs, too, and consider them part of your work?
BRAD PHILLIPS - No. The photograph is just a tool to make the painting. But I do not just paint random photos I take. I take the photograph as a source for painting. I think that some photographers solved the problem of photography: Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston and Diane Arbus. Art is problem-solving to me. I love photography as a fashion gold design, but I do not think it is more. Flickr is an amazing place to see people with obscure fetishes posting photos as part of a community. I've shown pictures to a handful of times, but they always had a conceptual relationship to the paintings in the same show.
OLIVIER ZAHM - Did anyone care about your work before Instagram?
BRAD PHILLIPS - Jesus. Yeah, I mean I've had a very prosperous career since I started out in 2002. I think the only difference with Instagram, but before Instagram, yeah I was showing my work all the time, selling it and getting lots of press. I've been doing this for a long time now.
OLIVIER ZAHM - How would you describe your fake business card?What do you want to say with them? Are you making fun of people
who have real jobs, or what do you see as "fake" jobs?
BRAD PHILLIPS - I've never had a real job really, and I'd never make fun of someone who did. The business cards, you can get 100 for $ 25. I was just trying to push appropriation art a bit further than I've seen done. It's a thing to appropriate a corporate logo, but I think it's more interesting to also appropriate the job. You are an editor at Penguin Books. I'm really into fraud - Clifford Irving's fake
biography of Howard Hughes, JT LeRoy. For me, art and crime are
not much different. In both, you're creating a false and increasing value for something that has no inherent real-world utility. Both just trust and assert that you're important,
you're to be taken seriously. It's all a joke, really. I like
fucking with people's idea of who I am.My bios for shows are
almost always fake. I say I live
in Jamaica or was born in a different year than I was. People are gullible, so I like fucking around with that.
OLIVIER ZAHM - And what about the letters?
BRAD PHILLIPS - The letters are the same deal. I wrote these fake cease-and-desist letters from the companies I was appropriating with the business cards. Penguin Books, CAA
[Creative Artists Agency]. I can not
believe how many people think the letters are real. In each one, the last paragraph kind of gives it away. But people are so ready to believe what they see without really being critical.
OLIVIER ZAHM - You mentioned Richard Kern as a friend on your Instagram. Did Richard also influence your work?
BRAD PHILLIPS - I'm pretty sure Richard's my friend. He took me to Soho House once. But no, Richard's work is so different from mine. He can shoot anyone. I have only ever made images of people. I could never make a painting or photograph of a model or stranger.