Christina McPhee jams textual fragments, prelinguistic marks, and the trace of performance, within a syntax of objects, which rely, for their making, on drawing— across media, including video, painting, and photography. The force and directionality of her images engage spatially with viewers on a haptic level, so that each object appears to address us from a deeply scaled to shallow spatial register that skirts both figure/ground and field, conflating each with each. She moves line and annotated color, in a syntax that resembles comic-book shorthand here, or nineties cyber-feminist glam there, allowing a process of visualization to remain open, messy and up for debate. Her work, from within a matrix of abstraction, involves contingency and variation as a syntax around time. Through drawing, she animates spatial constructions which, through shadow and reveal, may visualize 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 calligraphic gestures 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.
In time-based works, live and recorded drawings animate dense montage within images of fragile marine ecologies and seismic landscapes. “McPhee’s drawing, extended to and infiltrated with digital video, seems to outline a different and stranger project: that of creating as yet unknown material composites by aligning the rapid time-processing of our nervous systems with the emergent natures at actual sites of energy production or extraction” (Ina Blom).
A forthcoming book on her practice, CHRISTINA MCPHEE: A COMMONPLACE BOOK, will be published with Punctum Books in 2017. Contributors include Ina Blom, Judith Rodenbeck, Fraser Ward, Phil King and others. https://punctumbooks.com/titles/christina-mcphee-a-commonplace-book/
A new interview, “Christina McPhee, the Political-Aesthetics of Nature,” with Donata Marietta, appears online with digicult.it (from 27 February 2017) http://www.digicult.it/news/christina-mcphee-political-aesthetics-nature/
Christina McPhee’s work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Rhizome Artbase-New Museum, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and Storefront for Art and Architecture, Thresholds New Media Collection, Scotland, and elsewhere. Solo museum exhibitions include the American University Museum, Washington, D.C., and Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden. She has participated in group exhibitions, notably Documenta 12, 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 Los Angeles, she was a student of Philip Guston (MFA, painting, Boston University, 1979). She also studied at Kansas City Art Institute (BFA, painting and printmaking, valedictorian, 1976), and Scripps College, Claremont, California. She lives and works along the central coast of California.