Two Great Shows, Part 1: Dan H. Phillips at Webb Gallery

by Rainey Knudson December 16, 2010

The people in Dallas who know about these things have all heard of Dan H. Phillips, but I figure most everyone elsewhere in the state has yet to run across his quirky and exceptionally skilled work. His current show at Webb Gallery, Early American, showcases Phillips’ masterful cabinetmaking skills alongside his equally masterful, and sly, works on paper. The whole package beautifully translates 18th and 19th century tropes of American folk art (blanket chests, awkwardly charming ink drawings, even decorative stenciling) into the not-quite-right, half-sardonic/half-sincerely affectionate aesthetic of our times.

It might just be the best show I’ve seen all year.


Phillips hand paints his wall "stencils," saying the one time he tried to use an actual stencil it was a disaster. I like these free form efforts.


This is a reproduction of a card table in the MFAH’s Bayou Bend collection. My snapshot doesn’t do credit to the level of craftsmanship. The hardware comes from an old New England company.


(Two photos pasted together to show the entire wall)


Another instance of the photo not doing justice to the original. These drawings were largeish (~1.5′ x 3′) and were strange but sure, as were three drawings of whales (not under glass):

… and a large silhouette on the wall of same, also painted freehand:


Reproduction of a (I think) 18th century candle stand


For the show, Phillips constructed a cabin inside the gallery using wood reclaimed from a house on his father’s property. I kick myself for not getting a better image of the burled wood blanket chest, against the wall to the right. Again, Phillips’ level of craftsmanship and his respect for the integrity of these old furniture forms are injected with small witty details — an asymmetric skirt on the chest; carefully carved ends to the arm rests of the Danish chair (far right) that resemble broken-off wood.


Dan H. Phillips



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