The following text is reproduced courtesy of independent curator Wendy McDaris (2005):
Roger Phillips was born in New York City in 1930. His education as a metal smith began on Long Island at age 12 as a blacksmith’s helper. He has worked in metal ever since. His first exposure to art was at the Woodstock Country School in Vermont where he studied with Francis Foster, a teacher from Black Mountain College who ran his classes on the Bauhaus model.
Phillips graduated from Bard College in 1953. He studied drawing and design at the New School and metal fabrication at the Jewish Museum in New York. He is a past president of the Artist-Blacksmith’s Association of North America. His studio/workshop is located in Stuyvesant, New York about 100 miles north of New York City.
A constructivist, Phillips is in private and public collections throughout the United States. A large portion of his work is kinetic, made of stainless steel and brightly painted aluminum plate. Many pieces are commissioned for specific outdoor sites. Smaller versions, suitable for the interior of a house, of some of Roger’s sculptures have been produced in limited editions.
The beauty of Roger Phillips’s sculpture is experienced as soon as you see it. Simplicity and purity are achieved through meticulous engineering and craftsmanship. His vision is elegant, positive and decidedly upbeat. His own words reveal the inner spirit of the work.
Several influences are obvious: the bright forms, although more geometric, are reminiscent of Alexander Calder; the smoothness of motion plays homage to George Rickey; and the dialogue between graphic and three dimensional work refers to Ellsworth Kelly.
Various kinetic sculptors use slightly different methods to create motion: in Calder’s work the moving elements are attached from the top, Rickey’s are pendulums, Tim Prentice uses ballast, Lin Emery connects at the bottom and Pedro de Movellan sometimes uses magnets. Each produces a different effect. In contrast, Phillips has the moving elements held at top and bottom so each moves in a 360-degree orbit around a vertical axis.
There is a provocative contrast between the rigidity of the frame and the fluidity of the moving elements. The moving parts seemingly disappear and reappear as they revolve, revealing the surrounding landscape through the negative space. The sculptures appear light and airy as their glossy colored surfaces reflect their natural surroundings.
Phillips’s sculpture recalls Plato’s description of geometric form: “these are not, like other things, beautiful relatively, but always and absolutely.”
Split Disc on Two Squares, 2013 is one of the more architecturally inspired works by Roger Phillips that particularly recalls such iconic buildings from the 1950’s as the Eames House in Santa Monica and Frank Lloyd Wright’s John D. Haynes House in Fort Wayne, Indiana and his Thomas Keyes Residence in Rochester, Minnesota. The strong line and emphatic geometric form echo the symmetry and proportion so vital to architecture in general but particularly that employed during the 1950’s. The focus on geometric shapes provides visual interest to this tabletop sculpture with its split circle painted with yellow automobile paint. The counter balance to the rigidity of the two squares is the kinetic movement of the two yellow arcs. Exquisitely crafted, these geometric shapes are beautifully suspended and rotate on ball bearings that turn. The sheer simplicity in the precision of this sculpture’s execution is sure to be enjoyed by those who cannot help but touch, turn, twirl, and then enjoy the motion.
The smaller-scale sculptures of Roger Phillips integrate beautifully into any interior setting. Their primary colors and geometric form create a “punctuation” and focal point to any room. The influence of Alexander Calder is seen throughout Phillips’ work, with its strong line, shape, and color used to elicit kinetic energy and motion. As Phillips states of his work:
There is a provocative contrast between the rigidity of the frame and the fluidity of the moving elements that seemingly disappear and reappear as they revolve, revealing the surrounding landscape through the negative space. In motion the sculptures appear light and airy as their glossy, colored surfaces reflect their natural surroundings.
Studio of the Artist