Phillip Chen (American, b. 1953)
Phillip Chen received his B.F.A. from University of Illinois at Chicago and his M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Currently, Chen is a Professor of Drawing and Printmaking at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Chen, a third generation immigrant, produces artwork that investigates his family history, and more generally of Chinese immigrants in America. He notes in an interview with the Des Moines Register that “it's interesting how my family's specific history matches the history of labor and strife in the United States.” His artwork questions dualities, and forces past and present to collapse into a single moment.
Chen combines elements of documentary photography with diagrammatic drawing to create strong conceptual works imbued with a ghostly elegance. After developing an initial concept and “thinking in images,” the artist begins with photographed objects—the unusual and inspiring anonymous objects from his diverse collection, which range from a vintage corset and old Chinese padlocks and an interesting stick encountered on a walk. Simple and exact contour line drawings of other fascinating objects orbit, intersect, and extend from the photographic elements in a dynamic conversation.
His prints have been exhibited in over one hundred and forty locations nationally and internationally and are included in the permanent collections of many prominent arts institutions, including the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Public Library, Carnegie Institute Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Des Moines Arts Center. In 2018, Chen was named a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.