Unit London is thrilled to present the largest UK exhibition to date of Philip Colbert’s artistic works at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Colbert, labelled as the successor to Andy Warhol and a self-titled ‘Neo Pop Surrealist’, has garnered global recognition with his immensely vibrant work that blends high art with everyday icons of mass popular culture.
Philip Colbert’s Lobsteropolis encourages its audience to engage on two levels; viewers can physically visit the gallery space, or they can experience the exhibition digitally. Guests can either tour the gallery by registering on the website or they can book a slot with their own automated machine. Through the eyes of Colbert’s lively robot lobsters, gallery visitors are able to virtually absorb the fine detail of the artist’s immense artworks. These digital viewers can navigate the space alongside physical visitors via their smartphones, computers or zoom.
Colbert has cultivated a global following through his Dalí inspired cartoon lobster protagonist and Surrealist alter-ego. Colbert has stated, “I became an artist when I became a lobster.” A giant inflatable lobster, installed in Duke of York Square, will strike the inaugural welcoming tone when viewers arrive at the exhibition. Colbert’s Lobsteropolis was conceived as a response to the global pandemic and national lockdown. The exhibition can be understood as an imagining of a future world, governed by lockdowns, in which our robot selves are able to perceive the material world while our physical selves remain indoors.
The idea behind the show derives from feelings of isolation that stem from the limiting of human contact through social distancing. Colbert sees his lobster persona as embarking on a quest for this missing human connection. For Colbert, the importance of experiencing art in situ has become paramount. He therefore wanted to ensure that he presented a show that was completely ‘lockdown-proof’. Lobsteropolis then becomes a celebration of the freedom that both culture and technology can provide.
Colbert’s colossal works represent frenzied landscapes, brimming with contemporary iconography born of the digital age. However, Colbert simultaneously maintains a constant dialogue with a far-reaching art history. By incorporating recognisable symbols from the works of old and modern masters such as Rubens, Fernand Léger and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Colbert’s artworks are transformed into ‘celebrations of appropriation’. Colbert’s work strikes an impressive balance: the viewer is at once inundated with various visual stimuli and, yet, is always able to recognise certain symbols that are charged with universal meaning.
Colbert has highlighted that many art historical symbols have become as powerful as consumer symbols like Coca Cola, Google or General Electric. For example, a Picasso cubist portrait is as recognisable as the Apple logo. By taking this into account, Colbert’s artworks play with the viewer’s cultural and everyday visual vocabularies. References to classical antiquity and the Renaissance are juxtaposed with emblems of technology and contemporary life. Emojis, computer windows, Greek columns, cactuses, mouse cursors
Expanding on the established Pop art discourses instigated by the likes of Richard Hamilton and Roy Lichtenstein, Colbert’s work has earned a celebrity following that includes Lady Gaga, Cara Delavigne and Kanye West. The contemporary incarnation of the Renaissance Man, Colbert has exhibited his artworks, clothing and furniture in such universally renowned institutions as the Tate Modern, the Saatchi Gallery and the Van Gogh Museum. His recent exhibition, entitled Lobster Land, featuring his lobster alter-ego, travelled extensively to Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum, Gallery Simon in Seoul and the Whitestone Gallery in Hong Kong. Along with Lobsteropolis, Colbert’s seminal NEW PAINTINGS & HUNT PAINTINGS, presented at the Saatchi Gallery in 2017 and 2018, have marked the artist’s highly successful transition into monumental large-scale canvas works and sculpture.