Phillip Chen received his BFA from University of Illinois at Chicago and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Chen’s relief etchings suggest the many dualities that reside within the artist’s complex compositions. These oppositions include the past and the present, the public and the private, historical subjects and current events, darkness and light, East and West, and modes of drawing and photography. Even the slow and methodical act of printmaking itself relates to this dualism with its inherent “process of delays” —starts and stops—that Chen finds satisfying in its rhythm. The many steps between idea and method—from developing a concept to actually printing the etching—provide ample time for reflection, which ultimately enhances the final work.
Chen combines elements of documentary photography with diagrammatic drawing to create strong conceptual works imbued with a ghostly elegance. After developing an initial concept and “thinking in images,” the artist begins with photographed objects—the unusual and inspiring anonymous objects from his diverse collection, which range from a vintage corset and old Chinese padlocks to a late-nineteenth-century bicycle and an interesting stick encountered on a walk. Simple and exact contour line drawings of other fascinating objects orbit, intersect, and extend from the photographic elements in a dynamic conversation. Both photograph and line drawing hover in a warm glow against a rich, dense, velvety-black background. Their combinations establish enigmatic narrative dialogues.
Chen’s subject matter covers his varied interests spanning the past to the present and into the future. The artist imparts personal journeys made into the past investigating his Chinese heritage, as well as experiences in the present as a passionate reader, avid traveler, and politically-engaged American. Diverse but often interrelated subjects include his family’s Asian heritage, feminism, African race relations, mathematical principles, and creation theories. In his art, Chen visualizes these topics with expression and formalism in clean and precise but emotive compositions.
His prints have been exhibited in over one hundred and forty locations nationally and internationally and are held in public locations that include The Brooklyn Museum, The New York Public Library, The Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts. He has traveled extensively as a visiting artist, and served as an evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts, College Art Association, and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. His creative activites have been supported by The National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Council, Iowa Arts Council, THe Louis B. Comfort Tiffany Foundation, and the Pollock Krasner Foundation. Philip Chen has recently been named a fellow of the John Simon Guggengeim Memorial Foundation.