Best Of Last Week: Stars & Stripes

What a week people! I am fresh from my return from Sheffield and my billboard commission, but before I get into that, last week's adventures are just too good not to post. I finally managed to see Richard Phillips' exhibition, Most Wanted, at White Cube Hoxton Square before it closed over the weekend. When the show launched at the beginning of the year I knew I would be interested in how Phillips explores society's obsession with celebrity, and how themes of identity, politics and sexuality reflect in the superficiality of his subject matter - in this case, ten of America's most recognisable stars.
The exhibition's title embodies the power and mechanics of 'young Hollywood', both through choice of star - Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are one the money from Twilight mania - and in sheer gallery presence. The series of portraits in oil-paint overwhelm the viewer in scale and style. Luminous and shrine-esque, his subject's embody perfection - the artist specifically capturing the "rehearsed, red-carpet expressions" that are outlined with a neon glow of which the work of Richard Bernstein is referenced. While the portraits and their original pastel drawings, that are also exhibited on the first floor, create impact and seduction with notions of "the face of our future" (aside from the bizarre inclusion of practically veteran-teen idols, Timberlake and DiCaprio, who must have had teenybopper Twilighters asking, "who's that?"). It was however the 'step and repeat' that featured in the space's adjacent walls that I was most drawn to.
The logos of luxury brands and charities that suspend on red carpets are a curious familiar and an incredibly powerful marketing tool when celebrity images are reproduced over and over again. Phillips magnifies the use of branding in relation to the celebrity machine by bringing the format into a gallery context, itself a portrait, that is also highlighted in the background of the paintings. While it allowed visitors to White Cube to indulge in their very own red-carpet fantasy, the themes of Most Wanted were also applicable to the gallery it was housed in. Recognised for representing art stars of its own, Phillips paid tribute to White Cube's status within the art world with it's very own step and repeat. Strike a pose Mr Jopling.
First Thursday's also brought me to Whitechapel Gallery where exhibitions on John Stezaker (a must-see before 18th March) and Claire Barclay are on display. It was Richard Wentworth's year-long commission, A Confiscation of String, that triggered my own obsessiveness in the same way I get with foreign stationary.
While Wentworth continues to collect string of all shapes and sizes, the installation involves orange string that is looped up and down on the walls all held together with nails to form a wonderful interior intervention of sculptural stripes. The photos speak for themselves - this is knot to be missed!