Thanks to the painter Richard Phillips, pop culture’s current tragic heroine is making a cogent leap from the tabloids to the art world. The vehicle for her transformation is “Lindsay Lohan,” a 90-second ad for her more sober self that Phillips directed. It debuts next week in “Commercial Break,” an upstart program of artists’ videos put together by Neville Wakefield for the opening festivities of the 54th Venice Biennale.
With the “Lohan” video, shot last month in Malibu, Calif., by the surf-king filmmaker Taylor Steele (and exclusively previewing here), Phillips is also banking on a new direction. Last we looked, he was strictly a painter, albeit one with a certain fixation on the power of media gods and goddesses to distract us from the people they really are.
“I’ve never made a film, not even on an iPhone,” Phillips said (by iPhone) from an exhibition hall near Zurich, where he was hanging “Painting and Misappropriation,” a show he first organized last year for the Swiss Institute in New York. “In some ways the video relates to my art, but it’s also a way to think about a new kind of portraiture.”
In “Lindsay Lohan,” the beleaguered beauty is captured mostly in close-up, and in attitudes that Phillips appropriated from two 1960s movie classics, Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt” and Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” starring Brigitte Bardot and Liv Ullmann, respectively. The skimpily clad Lohan stands in for each, appearing anguished, introspective, seductive, sleepy, hurt, querulous, innocent and always alone. The links Phillips makes between her and the roles that Bardot and Ullmann play in the films may be subtle, but they are distinct.
“What fascinates me about Lindsay are not her problems but the way she embodies an eminence on the level of a Bardot or an Ullmann,” Phillips said. “She’s a combination of the fantastic and the real, which is what makes her so magnetic. She can also bring forward an existential presence that speaks to the isolated self.”
Both “Persona” and “Contempt,” he pointed out, examine those issues, and his brief psychological portrait of Lohan attempts to unite the irreconcilable differences in her divided personality.
The video repudiates the subtext of “Most Wanted,” Phillips’s show at the White Cube Gallery in London earlier this year. It included outsize portraits of famous faces belonging to Leonardo DiCaprio, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Dakota Fanning and the like, all based on red-carpet or step-and-repeat fashion photos – “spokesperson pictures,” as Phillips calls them.
This time out, he wanted to get beyond a public image widely exploited, or ridiculed, in the media, and past the celebrity endorsements and luxury-goods sponsorship that, he says, are what herald serious art projects today.
The 80 videos that constitute “Commercial Break” do something of the same. Presented by Dasha Zhukova’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, and sponsored by Post magazine for an iPad application, they will play on an unavoidable Jumbotron floating the length of the Grand Canal in Venice. Intended as a provocation to the art trade, each uses commercial means to speak for art in a city where all forms of public advertising are forbidden.
“Lindsay Lohan” certainly has the look of a commercial, though no one watching it is likely to have a clue what it’s promoting — other than Lohan’s determination to stay in the game. “I never met her before the shoot,” Phillips said. “We only texted. But she showed up on time and worked an entire day, and hit every take on the money.”
Richard Phillips’s “Lindsay Lohan” premieres next Wednesday in “Commercial Breaks,” and plays through June 5 along the Grand Canal in Venice.
A Richard Phillips Film
Directed by: Richard Phillips and Taylor Steele; Director of Photography: Todd Heater; Costume Designer: Ellen Mirojnick; Creative Director: Dominic Sidhu; Art Director: Kyra Griffin; Editor: Haines Hall; Color mastering: Pascal Dangin for Boxmotion.
Source: New York Times