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.”
The maquette Disc on Column, 2004 is a unique and intriguing sculpture creation for Roger Phillips. Unlike many of his sculptures which boast only strong lines and geometric lines throughout, Disc on Column is a bit more organic, sporting a rich red disc or circle that recalls the native apples from the sculptor’s upstate home in Stuyvesant, New York. The column on which this rich red circle sits does have a very strong geometric line very much like a totem or flag pole. What remains a constant throughout this work is the careful crafting of the brilliantly colored disc dressed in long lasting and resilient primary red automotive paint. The result is a dynamic contrast between the rigidity of the column or frame and the fluidity of the moving circle. As the circle or disc revolves, the painted surface can reflect the surroundings. There is a sense of order and yet also one of playfulness in this sculpture. Who can resist the temptation of spinning this simple circle that is meticulously engineered to move kinetically and thrill both the eye and the touch of the viewer? The complete lack of pretension appeals to the inner child in all of us—young and old alike. Such a work recalls Plato’s timeless description of the beauty of geometric forms:
“..these are not, like other things, beautiful relatively, but always and absolutely.”
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