Christina McPhee’s images move from within a matrix of abstraction, shadowing figures and contingent effects. Her work emulates potential forms of life, in various systems and territories, and in real and imagined ecologies. Her dynamic, performative, physical engagement with drawing, in both her analogue and digital works, is a seduction into surface-skidding calligraphies and mark-making. The tactics of living are in subterfuge, like the dazzle ships of camouflage in war. Lines throw down rope-like bridges, cat’s-cradling figures, or a search for grounding and commons. Cached and clustered, fragments take exception to systems. Color sparks disruptions of scale that reveal allusions to biochemical contraventions, migration, grammars, and marine stress. Her work takes on violence, tragi-comic exuberance, and vitality from within a ‘post-natural’ experience of community. Her current paintings in 2017 ramify data points and folds in cartographic-like fields of drawing, collage, and painted details. Resistance to an overall gestalt of coherence is played out in dispersed, distracted fields of shards or fragments, suggesting seismic landscapes and proliferating data. How does a map of the Anthropocene read?

Source materials in the collage come from two streams, first, design and culture magazines from the early eighties, and second, contemporary climate change documentation in scientific journals. As utopian palimpsest, each painting derives coherence and distraction simultaneously through bits and pieces of a past era, the early eighties, whenever, in that “mo(u)rning in America,” climate catastrophe might still have been mitigated, and the great experiment of the counter-culture and soixante-huit had just reached its mirrored antithesis in the horrors of AIDS, hyper-surveillance, continuous war. The paintings’ gambit and play revert to detonations around color, line, textual fragments, and graphics idioms. Collage becomes a technical support for resistance, granularity, and precision, making openings for thought outside systems of control. “Becoming out of all this graphic architecture is a multi-dimensional multiplicity of lost experience. Both the possibility and the actuality of such loss is made fact.” (Phil King)

“One gets the sense that the image conjured up is all at once a particular, individual, material composite (colored ink, graphite, paper, the skills of a hand) and a precarious, temporary, expression of forces for which no adequate, human- readable language exists. The question of drawing’s mobilities is thus a question of expressive sympathy, imitation and belief in some kind of connection or association to other mobilities, however fraught or tentative.” – Ina Blom

Christina McPhee’s work is in the museum collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum-Rhizome Artbase, and International Center for Photography, New York; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; and Thresholds New Media Collection, Scotland. Solo museum exhibitions include the American University Museum, Washington, D.C., and Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden. She has participated in group exhibitions, notably with documenta 12 (Magazine Project), Bucharest Biennial 3, Museum of Modern Art Medellin, Bildmuseet Umea, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, California Museum of Photography/Digital Studio, and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), London. Born in Pomona, California in 1954, she studied at Scripps College, Claremont and Kansas City Art Institute (BFA); she was a student of Philip Guston during his last year of life and teaching, at Boston University (MFA painting 1979).  She has taught at Kansas City Art Institute and the University of California-Santa Cruz in the Digital Arts and New Media MFA program.  In 2012, she won a MAP Fund for Performance grant with Pamela Z, for the production of Carbon Song Cycle, which premiered at Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive and at Roulette, Brooklyn, in 2013.  She lives and works in California.

Christina McPhee: A Commonplace Book is a new book, published in October 2017 by Punctum Books. As ‘commonplace book’ this monograph contains essays and interviews from international critics, art historians, curators and artists,  including Ina Blom, Judith Rodenbeck, Frazer Ward, Melissa Potter, James MacDevitt, Esztar Timár, and Phil King.


download link cv October 2017

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