Sunday, October 25, 2009

A few words with Phillip Toledano before his solo show America: The Gift Shop opens 10/29/09 @ Hous Projects

Phillip Toledano
Hope & Fear Series

Phillip Toledano caught my eye while doing the pre-screening phase at Photolucida's Critcal Mass 2009 . I heard of his work before but , when confronted with his Photolucida's series entry A New Kind of Beauty, I was! there is something new here , daring, beautifully photographed and with a very strong social message. I posted it in my blog immediately with all the other work, I liked for the world to see. After visiting his site and seen the range of themes, the quality and brilliance behind it, I decided also to include Phillip as part of UNSEEN the show, I curated at Randall Scott Gallery, and now this America: The Gift Shop solo show this week...folks really...check it out and start collecting his work pronto!

There is a star right in front of you!

Here is a few questions for Phil.

Ruben Natal-San Miguel- Phil, You have such variety of range in your work, where most of your ideas come from?

Phillip Toledano-That's a very good question, and one I'd quite like to know the answer to. The problem with having a lot of ideas and not knowing the source, is that i live in terror of the magical wellspring drying up one day...

I would say, that as I look back on on my projects, BANKRUPT, VIDEO GAMERS, PHONESEX, AMERICA THE GIFT SHOP, DAYS WITH MY FATHER, and A NEW KIND OF BEAUTY, they're all things which directly connect to me. Either in terms of what's happening culturally or politically, or personally. Ultimately, what I'm doing is not particularly unusual-I'm just shooting what's in front of me...

RNSM-. Your photography series behind its esthetics's, carries with it a pretty strong social/political message... how do you manage to translate the message into the work? What is the true purpose? Controversy? Shock effect?

Phillip Toledano
From-America: The Gift Shop
Lyndie England Cut Out

PT-I've always wanted to create art that says something. Art that expands the vernacular, that pushes the boundaries of what we know, or what we feel. I never consider the consequences of what I'm working on at the time. I work in a completely self-involved and closed environment.It's a little like living in the biosphere in Arizona (but without drinking my own urine). If i started to think about how the world at large was going to react, it would stop being a solo performance, and become a chorus. I'd begin to censor myself. There's a beautiful purity to the interior monologue that happens when you're figuring out an idea (spoken like a true only-child!)

Phillip Toledano
From- America: The Gift Shop
Abu-Ghraib Coffee Table

RNSM- Can you explain to us America: The Gift Shop?

-Towards the tail end of the Bush administration, Ii began to feel as though everything he had done, all the laws he'd broken, lives he'd ruined, had been forgotten. I started thinking about the idea of creating souvenirs to remind us of all these terrible things. The basic premise is: If American foreign policy had a gift shop, what would it sell? I actually feel as though the work is more relevant now. How can we ever have any kind moral authority in the world, until we reconcile what we've done for the last 8 years. How can we look to the future, when the world only sees us in the context of our immediate past?

Phillip Toledano
From -America: The Gift Shop
While you wait

RNSM- The A new kind of Beauty is pretty interesting series and a finalist running right now for the stage at Photolucida ... Can you tell us how the whole idea started and how the public is reacting to it?

PT-The project is portraits of people who've completely reinvented themselves through plastic surgery. Oddly enough, I started A NEW KIND OF BEAUTY at the same time as, I started taking photographs of my 98 year old father, when I was taking care of him. After all, what is plastic surgery but the denial of death and aging? I was also interested in the idea of beauty, and how we define it. Is beauty influenced by art? Popular culture? The surgeons hand? And when one re-creates oneself, is it the birth of a new physical identity, or the removal of one?

Phillip Toledano
from A New Kind of Beauty Series

Currently part of the UNSEEN group show @ Randall Scott Gallery
Digital C-Print

30” x 40”
Edition of 8
Unframed $1,200.00 first 2
$1,500.00 #3 & 4
$1,800.0 #5 & 6
$2,200.00 # 7
$2,500.00 #8

RNSM- Tell us about Days with my Father and why is so how well is being received by the public? I understand is about to be be published?

Phillip Toledano
Days With My Father
Dad looking at the sunset'


PT-When my mum died suddenly about three years ago, I found myself taking care of my father, who was 97 at the time. As I quickly found out, he didn't really have much short term memory. My mother had hidden the extent of his deterioration from me. I started taking photos, and writing about our lives together. I suppose, I wanted to remember the things he said to me, the love we both felt, the way he looked. I ended up posting everything on a website, having no idea that anyone would be interested in such a personal experience. As it turned out, I was wrong.

Phillip Toledano
Days With My Father
'Meringue Nipples'

Size 30x40

To date, almost a million people have been to the site, and I've gotten hundreds of emails from people all over the world. It's been a real honor, to be able to touch so many people. One of the lovely and totally unexpected things is that I've gotten so many emails from kids, telling me that the work had made them reconsider their relationship with their parents, or grandparents. All the other work I've done has been very interesting to me, intellectually speaking, but this is different. To be able to make someone pick up the phone and call a parent they've not spoken to in years, is a wonderful thing.

And yes, DAYS WITH MY FATHER is being published next spring, which I'm very happy about.

RNSM-Thanks Phil! Looking forward the opening of America: The Gift Shop at Hous Projects October 29, 2009.

Please read press release and more info about AMERICA: The Gift Shop:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. – John F. Kennedy, 1963

Lest we forget. – Rudyard Kipling, 1897

The advent of television in the early sixties gave rise to the televised news broadcast, and the opportunity for Americans to put images to stories previously only heard on the radio, or read in newsprint. It was a change that would prove monumental during the Vietnam War. Overnight, civilians possessed first-hand information that was until then, only imagined. Catastrophe, carnage, and the faces of those fighting-both friend and foe alike, came alive in graphic detail. And for the first time, the brutal cost of war to civilians was painfully visible for all to see.

Everyone tuned in. Everyone was aware. But more importantly, because these were new, unseen images, they were a catalyst that eventually brought about an end to a war. Ironically, contemporary images as atrocious, and outrageous, awaken our perceptions of injustice at initial impact, but the sensation is fleeting. Have we become so desensitized by portrayals of violence in the media? Has our collective sense of ethics so deteriorated, that atrocities committed in our name are quickly thrust aside by the latest celebrity scandal? Where has our compassion gone?

Phillip Toledano’s anger with the events of the last eight years, festered and grew to the point that he felt obliged to create work that might provoke discussion in an open forum beyond the seemingly ineffective anti-war minority. The secret prisons. The torture and abject disregard for human rights. The use of mercenaries, and their frequent killing of civilians. The Orwellian obsession with security. Through the medium of retail tourism, he serves up a reminder, that we are collectively responsible as a nation to remember.

Everything in America is reflected through the fun-house mirror of commerce. Why not foreign policy?

Bobble head figurines. A snow globe. A cookie jar. Postcards. T-shirts, neon signs, and chocolate bars. These are all things that make up our daily existence. They have a familiar intimacy. And that’s why they make perfect vehicles to shock, disturb, and remind. Once the sugar coating of the ordinary dissolves, we are left with the grim truth about where we’ve been as a nation.

At the end of a trip, we buy a souvenir to remind ourselves of the experience. What do we have to remind us of the events of the last eight years? And who will be held accountable for what has unfolded?. How can we look to the future with hope, when the past remains unresolved? What claim do we have to the moral high ground, when our recent past is so stained? Fingers must be pointed, and pointed publicly. Then, and only then, when the world sees us acting as we tell the world to act, will America’s honor be restored.

hous projects proudly presents a solo exhibition by Phillip Toledano of his installation, America: The Gift Shop.
An opening reception to celebrate the artist will be held from 6 to 8 pm, Thursday, October 29, 2009.

phillip toledano
america: the gift shop

october 29 – december 19, 2009

hous projects
31 howard street, floor 2
new york, ny 10013
t. 212.941.5801
f. 212.965.0207

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