James Phillips: Swirling Complexity into Culture (2017)


James Phillips: Swirling Complexity into Culture is a 74–page catalogue of works by AfriCOBRA artist James Phillips, whose unique painting style combines a knowledge of African iconography, patterns and symbols with bright colors and monumental scale. Included in this catalogue are color reproductions of Phillips’ works and insightful commentaries.

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James Phillips is a Baltimore–based artist who creates magnificent, colorful works that are reflective of his life’s experience and African American culture. His love for jazz music, especially the improvisation used in early jazz, led Phillips to incorporate improvisation in his visual arts. Phillips’ experiences in the African American community; the Virginia countryside, and the cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—as well as with the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Arts Movement—contributed to his emergence as an artist. As Phillips developed his improvisational style, he began to adopt a great deal of movement and depth in his works. His incorporation of his life’s experiences has propelled his development as an artist with a unique and distinctive approach.

Early in his artistic career, Phillips aligned himself with the positive message of the Black Power Movement, which encouraged African American artists to create works that reflected pride in their history and culture. Phillips was always developing his artistic talents by experimenting with color, researching themes, and looking to the African diaspora for inspiration. The result is a painting style that is colorful and Afrocentric. Even though his zigzag paintings are American in nature, they are tightly woven, like a piece of African tapestry, and very similar to the house paintings of the Ndebele people of South Africa and Zimbabwe, who are also known for their colorful beadwork.

—Excerpt from “Director’s Statement” by Eric Key, President, UMUC Arts Program

Eric Key

Bibliographic Details


James Phillips: Swirling Complexity into Culture


University of Maryland University College Arts Program, Adelphi, Maryland

Publication Date:              2017

Binding:                                Pictorial Softcover

Book Condition:                Excellent

Book Type:                           Exhibition Catalogue

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