“Danica is the only artist I met first as a collector. I had bought one of her weekly diary drawings accompanied by some of her wonderful line drawings. By chance I then discovered a diary drawing that had documented my purchase. But before it was delivered it was gnawed on by Danica’s dog and had to be remade. So we met for redelivery through her Spanish gallery at a fair in New York. Too many coincidences, so I offered Danica a show. Her conceptual rigour, to document everything you spend and earn over years, is admiring. But to play with the market dynamics by setting the prices and allowing copies is controversial and clever. Combined with her sensitive and beautiful figurative line drawings it merges to a true masterpiece.”
Danica Phelps is a conceptual artist best known for her pencil drawings on paper documenting every facet of her life in an abstracted and formalised way through diary-like charts. A unique blend of abstraction, conceptual systematics and exhibitionism, combined with a continuous output of delicate line drawings depicting scenes of her everyday routine and experiences from grocery shopping and walking the dog to making love or having an argument. In most of her oeuvre Danica makes references to financial aspects of her life and her work, citing her money spent and earned as well as dealing with the value of her work.
In Phelp’s ongoing project Income’s Outcome for instance she documents her complete earnings and all her expenses, a green stripe for every dollar earned, a red stripe for every dollar spent. Every expense or money made is accompanied by a drawing depicting a gesture, action or other image related to that transfer. Phelps gained notoriety for The Cost of Love, a 25-panel painting constructed from an 8-page court ruling after a failed attempt to win back her New York apartment from her ex-girlfriend. Legal fees and the loss of ownership over the property had cost Phelps an estimated $350,000, resulting in a series with 350,000 individual red stripes. A piece that inspired the conceptual drawing performance piece of the so-called ‘Stripe Factory’, where Phelps hired up to 14 people a day to complete the project.
What makes Phelp’s approach fully unique is that, in certain series, the artist sets the price for the drawings herself according to what she feels it is worth, thereby completely undermining the usual market strategies. She further allows so-called generation drawings to be made: if a motif proves popular, she makes a traced drawing of the original, then a traced drawing of the tracing and so forth with the price being always the one of the original. Here again Phelps plays with market rules and questions of authenticity blurring the line between a drawing and a copy and contesting the uniqueness of the released art work.
As Phelps works generally in series that have an overarching concept, the single documentations and notations of different formats become part of a larger entity that is grouped to large-scale installations when presented in an exhibition context.
Danica Phelps has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, most recently in the Weatherspoon Art Museum in North Carolina and the University Art Gallery of California. Her work is included in the collections of the Kunsthalle Hamburg, Arkansas Arts Center, Hammer Museum, Seattle Art Museum and the Yale Art Museum.
Exhibitions at the gallery:
Income’s Outcome, 2014 (two-person show with Katherine Murphy).