Studio blog

News and updates about Tom Phillips, posted by the artist himself

Tuesday, 06 August 2013 13:25 Written by  Tom Phillips

Life's Work


A Humument
at MASS MoCA, 2013

Wonders of the world are sometimes to be found in tiny towns. North Adams barely registers on a map of the United States and is little more than an unassuming dot on that of Massachusetts. It houses nonetheless as large a museum of modern art as I have ever seen, almost as long as my street and twice as wide; the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA).

I visited it three of four years ago with my maverick friend and fellow artist Michael Oatman. He suggested that it would be just the right place to show A Humument. The idea grew with the encouragement of curator Denise Markonish. Eventually she suggested some dates for the showing of A Humument in its present entirety, the pages of Mallock’s novel accompanied by my two treatments.

When I arrived at the opening in April I had no idea what the display would actually be like. Coming into the huge hall which houses the show under the title Life’s Work I was stunned with delight at the beauty and simplicity of the installation that Denise Markonish had devised. Instead of my imagined walk around the walls of a room, I faced a huge rectangular block resembling the cast of an inner gallery, round whose outside were more than a thousand frames, like the serried portholes of an ocean liner anchored at an angle within a high hall.

Work energises work, and I have set about filling some of those remaining frames for Version II which, in anticipation, hold blank grey sheets. Half a dozen have already appeared with more to follow as the exhibition heads to its closing in January 2014. One such revised page features Peckham mud combined with that gathered from a nearby river in Massachusetts.

The show has provoked a gratifying amount of interest especially from those who have (often in search of other exhibits) chanced upon it. No reaction has been more wholeheartedly positive, however, than that of the Boston Globe’s chief art critic Samuel Smee.

A Human Document p2
A Human Document
, page 2 untreated.

A Humument p2 version 1

A Humument
page 2, first version 1973

A Humument page 2 version 2

A Humument
page 2, second version 2013.
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