“From the Garden of Eden to the Mind of Goya”
Hedwig Dances at the Joyce SoHo, 155 Mercer Street.
April 29, 2006

Jan Bartoszek, a Chicago choreographer, started her company, Hedwig Dances, in 1985. For its New York debut at the Joyce SoHo, seen Thursday, she presented three works.
“Wet Dreams” by Jan Erkert, one of the guest choreographers, was inspired by the intimate atmosphere of communal baths. Four women squatted on low stools, first pulling a foot to their faces, then arching backward and uttering quick pants. Philip Livingston’s set of two wooden screens lent the stage an intriguingly deep perspective.
—Gia Kourlas


June/July 2007, Art in America

Philip Livingston recently exhibited 11 works in pastel and paint on formed wood
panels that employ an economical, deceptively simple artistic language to achieve subtle visual and
psychological effects. The images suggest a narrative, but they are full of riddles.
Livingston’s work hovers between sculpture and painting. His wood panels bow
outward, pushing the image at the viewer. He applies paint so sparingly that much of the wood
surface shows through and much is left bare. He works on untreated surfaces, so some of the paint soaks
in to create ragged areas of color. Each painting shows a nude woman in a sketchily defined space
accompanied by simple props like a loose shirt or a chair. The model is a human presense that draws us in, but
Livingston outlines her in pastel so she’s transparent; the props are the stars of these images.

Six Reflections (2006), a 75-by-53-inch painting on six small wood panels, presents six views of a nude,
who puts on a loose white jacket, takes it off, and holds it in front of her. Shy and elusive, she flits into our
lives and out again—and we cannot tear our eyes away from the jacket. She’s a dream woman in a dream
world—and she reveals no secrets.”

—Victor M. Cassidy


March 2005

Philip Livingston’s Breath sculptures are haiku in visual form—distinct, beautiful, and elegant.

The viewer’s senses respond to the optical illusions of theater scrim and lighting effects that Livingston has staged.

The tensile strength of steel wire and aluminum—suspending lightweight bamboo or scrim—is disorienting, as well as perceptually engaging and exhilarating. Livingston defines space through the absense of mass. Space has been parcelled and collected…made visible with exotic shadows, soft curves, and light reflected from metallic edges.

Breath is the clock that moves like a pendulum over our lives. The significant element of Breath, Bamboo is a rope moving across space. The rope embraces the air like a lip openned wide, forming the arched cavity for breath to enter or escape. The power of Livingston’s work is that he convinces us that some kind of breath continues on the other side of a perfectly still body. If this is true, then death is not the end of time, just a rope joining one space to another.

Livingston’s intuition allows him to find invisible forms in infinite space, connections that would otherwise be ignored. He makes the invisible visible…

Like the sails on a boat, Breath, 15 Cones waits expectantly for a gust of wind. The hanging scrims are suspended from the ceiling, and a horizontal dowel traversing the width of the work anchors the viewer’s vision, just as the horizon line becomes a focus at sea. The dowel creates a sensation of mass (even though it is not logical to look for mass in a work that hangs from the ceiling and probably weighs no more than five pounds). However, Livingston’s pleasure is to play with mass where there is none, challenging notions of what is ordinary and what our perception accepts as normal.

In Breath, Pause, dark shadows edge against pure light, and middle gray tones layered on white space become black without warning. Rather than feeling cold and industrial, the scrim shimmers with light while absorbing shadow into its metal folds, making it seem soft and inviting, like a blanket. Livingston gives the work intensity by elevating a simple construction device, rivets, into an element of aesthetic significance. The wooden curve is not a complete sphere, but…makes a visual connection with the round rivets. Livingston has created a strong perceptual relationship between something invisible and something real. He understands how to sift through subliminal gestures to create interest and drama.

In his work, materials reflect the tenuous and delicate line that exists between breath and death. The eyes and mind compare the concise and slender connections in Breath, Pause, or Breath, Bamboo, with the fragile but specific connection the body requires to keep breathing. Livingston turns space into form and makes the invisible visible: breath is suspended between cantilevered bamboo and scrim instead of flesh and bone.
—Stephanie Bowman

Studio view, December 2018