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Philip John Evett: An Extraordinary Artist

The Valley House Gallery and Sculpture Garden in Dallas is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year with a commemorative exhibition.

Running April 26 through May 31, 60th Anniversary Exhibition: Donald S. Vogel and the Artists He Championed, will include works by Vogel, Tom Benrimo, Hugh H. Breckenridge, Kelly Fearing, Scott Gentling, Gottfried Honegger, Loren Mozley, Fred Nagler, Earl Stroh, Valton Tyler, Charles Umlauf, Claude Venard, Velox Ward, Charles Williams, and Clara McDonald Williamson. The Opening Reception and Garden Party is 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 4.

The late Donald S. Vogel, founder of the Valley House, wrote this essay for a catalogue that accompanied a 2004 exhibition of Philip John Evett’s work at the Tyler Museum of Art.

Text by Donald S. Vogel

What a pleasure it is to write a few words about the work of Philip John Evett, an extraordinary artist. For more than 50 years as a dealer, I have exhibited the work of sculptors of international fame, but until recently had totally missed this talent who was practically working in my backyard. Qualifying my judgment with the best in the field, I place Philip Evett’s work among the best of 20th and 21st Century sculptors.

In 1938, I met Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964) in his studio in Chicago, where he was experimenting with unconventional materials. He was one of the first sculptors to explore the possibilities of concave surfaces and voids, and his work left an everlasting impression on me. Later, Elie Nadelman (1882-1946) combined these possibilities with his wit and produced work with qualities of directness, accessibility, and blunt grandeur.

Philip Evett has done the same in his own unique way. Using maple, cedar, mahogany, and oak, he carves in sections that he then assembles like a tightly joined three-dimensional puzzle. His anthropomorphic forms fit together with unnerving precision—craftsmanship at its best. A torso may be part cedar and oak joined with thighs of mahogany and maple. Branches with multiple limbs can suggest head, arms, or legs. His sculptures appear like strange mannequins, often with humor. His female figures are most outstanding. They are either standing, walking, sitting, or reclining as in traditional sculpture. His distinct design and construction, however, give these figures a haunting, and surprisingly pleasant, quality. The resulting texture of the work is totally inventive and delights the eye. The colors and, particularly, the grains of different woods play a subtle but important role in the overall composition as they express both volume and movement in his sculptures. They are at times almost joyous, exuding some unfathomable charm and eliciting a smile from the viewer. The subtleties offered make it truly worthwhile for the viewer to spend time getting acquainted with his pieces.

Philip Evett stands alone in the artistic choices he has made and the style he has created. His works are deserving of national exposure and international acclaim. May you enjoy the pleasure I have found in them.

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