By NOAH BECKER, APR 2016
New York-based, Haitian-born and Yale educated painter Guy Stanley Philoche is an artist on the rise. His colorful textured abstractions and other works based on board games are known to art lovers and collectors in America and abroad. Philoche’s philanthropy is also known — Philoche believes it is a moral imperative to "give-back" and has generously donated his time and work to benefit a great many charities over the years.
Philoche was raised in Connecticut after emigrating there at 3 years of age and has since found his place in the New York artworld — a daunting task. But the New York of song and story (as we all know) is a perfect place for a new arrival to make it big, or fail completely. Making it big means Philoche regularly shows and sells his paintings and sculptural works internationally. Making it big means a large web of collectors (some celebrity collectors) and admiration from the artists of his generation. The ultimate goal is to have enough power to change the world, and change art history. Warhol Superstar Billy Name described this quality in Andy Warhol as an ability to “Throw Lightning.” At a certain point, Warhol could throw lightning in the sense of changing lives and changing history. Philoche’s recent electricity and surge in popularity is due to these mysterious factors.
Being at the right place at the right time is part of the equation and the old adage of meeting opportunity with preparation. But you can also find fast success through the quality of your works. So, yes, it's not easy being a new artist on the New York scene trying to find that luck. Philoche remembers his beginnings: "My first memory or experience as a newcomer in the New York art scene was that everyone and their mother was an artist in the city, it seemed like there were artists everywhere”. Indeed, there are more artists in New York than ever. As artist and critic Anthony Haden-Guest put it: “There are enough artists in New York now to fill Shea Stadium.”
Despite the challenges of an overcrowded art scene, Philoche moves forward at his own speed. “I have a solo show in May 2016 at 101 gallery in LA, where I’ll be showing my new series of paintings called “FREEDOM,” Philoche says. His new works cleverly create a feeling of childlike nostalgia through a combination of visual cues, the subject matter, the colors and the aged/vintage overall aesthetic of paper airplanes floating across abstract color fields. “We can all remember playing with paper airplanes as children, enamored with the mystery of flight, looking at these paintings for me, immediately brings back those memories,” he says.
Philoche is a larger than life social entity on the New York art scene due to having that special kind of art persona — either you have it or you don't. Those who have this kind of charisma draw people to them in a magnetic way. Philoche emanates cool but not a superficial cool — he is 100% real, his magnetism is connected to his intellect. A stylish and outgoing person, he navigates the scene on his own terms and seeks to help those in need where he can. New York can be like high school and type-cast an artist quite quickly. Most people operate to win and act like the art scene is a sporting event. In this sense Philoche has uniquely set his persona to work, distinguishing himself from the crowds of artists running for a touchdown and competing for attention whilst jammed into openings across the city.
I’m a fan of the uniqueness of Philoche’s paintings — it’s not an attention grab, it’s about communication. In that way, the works have a genuine playfulness and intelligence to them. Painterly ideas are difficult to come by — original ideas. When an artist runs out of ideas they invent new ways of working. British painter Francis Bacon spoke of painting “Anything” and how out of that “Anything” something new happens. The idea of making art from anything is an aesthetic I personally subscribe to, and Philoche's work is in that area of things for me. Similar to Philoche, the art team Fischli and Weiss have directness in their work, evidenced in a recent Guggenheim retrospective of the artist-duo. It’s a way of bringing your iconography to the absolute surface of the viewer’s subconscious; even children can understand it. Philoche’s conceptual and communicative aspect registered in my brain and my interest in his work grew.
But I had been acquainted with Philoche’s works well before meeting him. Someone on the west coast sent me images and I experienced reproductions of his paintings for the first time. This same west coast friend brought to my attention an art magazine cover story on him. The first works by Philoche I saw were the board game paintings, specifically the Monopoly painting. The child in me responded to his painterly interpretation of games. His board game paintings have this directness — it’s the directness you see in Pop Art and Graffiti — that communicates to everyone in the world without explanation. When I subsequently did a studio visit with him, I was pleasantly surprised to see a three-dimensional work that relates to aspects of the board game paintings. It was a three-dimensional board game piece made of steel and housed in a vitrine referencing Monopoly. The vitrine was placed near a board game painting as a way of jumping from the painterly 2D world into the 3D world. Philoche says about his board game works: “It all goes back a few years when visiting my brother. We were reminiscing about when we were kids and playing board games, deciding who is the banker, reminiscing about all the side deals.”
But beyond the board game paintings, the art-star lifestyle and the man-about-town schedule, Philoche has other concerns. His kind nature never overlooks the need to give back to other artists and the community in general. He makes it clear that he is there for those seeking guidance and support. “You know art saved my life; and when I hear about these schools closing down and their art programs, I feel like I need to do something to help. New York has been really good to me, and because of that I have to do my part,” Philoche says. His connection with people gives him a wide range of social situations with which to orchestrate giving back to the community.
Philoche made an earlier series called "Untitled" which had a strong connection to abstract expressionism. His colors drew me in but I also found the texture of these works and the breakup of space ingenious. It’s difficult to present an abstract painting in a way that is not too flashy and honors the overall treatment of the surface. “I know this is very taboo, but I use a lot of texture my work,” Philoche says. “I really want you to feel and touch my work, use your other senses besides just looking I also want you to touch it, feel it and smell it.” This popular series of abstractions sold well and launched Philioche's career. Then, like the Zurich-based painter Andy Denzler, Philoche had a stylistic shift from abstraction to paintings to representational paintings. These were the Monopoly paintings we spoke of earlier — a break from abstraction. Changing can be a good thing, and in this case it was the right move. “It's important for an artist to grow and evolve,” he says. “Sometimes you just want to take a break from painting what you are well-known for. It doesn't mean that I mastered that series; it just means I’m evolving as an artist.”
What’s does the future for Guy Stanley Philoche? His paintings are already in the collections of numerous corporations (including Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch and Barclay Investments Inc.), as well as the private collections of celebrities such as Uma Thurman, George Clooney and Julian Schnabel. “I have a coffee table book that's coming out soon. I will be doing Art Hamptons in July. I have a show [in] May in LA,” Philoche says. Despite all modesty, Philoche's work is driven by passion: a passion to create in the transformative sense. There's an almost mythic consciousness alive in his paintings, a contemporary brilliance that flares into the whole of our waking senses. His works are compelling without being coercive, in large part due to the way he suggests realms of experience more than the visual where the mind can freely wander. Speaking of his art in a recent interview, Philoche said: "It forces you to use your senses. I remember a time for me as a kid going to the MoMA and seeing these amazing paintings and all you want is to touch them. They have all this texture and you want to just touch it, so I did, and I remember the security guard saying 'You can't touch that! You can't touch that!' I vowed then there that I was going to make art that people can touch.”
Equally important is the immersive reach of Philoche's work, which doesn't exhaust itself in 2-dimensional works on canvas, but is socially generative as well. This includes his work for The American Cancer Society’s Pink and Black Tie Gala, Kids With Cameras, My Language Project, The Leukemia Needs Foundation, ARTrageous! and Tibet House. He is also one of a handful of artists who have committed to buying a painting whenever he sells a painting in order to support fellow artists. All of which is to say: Philoche an incomparable presence on the international art scene today. WM
Noah Becker shows his art internationally. A visual artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Becker has also written freelance articles for The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post and contributed texts to major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker also directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube.
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