Brad Phillips First Last Chance

Works in the exhibition

Howard Hughes was one of the most successful business tycoons of his generation. He had a hand in just about every lucrative American enterprise; an entrepreneur and investor, he was deeply seated in the American aviation and aerospace economy during the cold war, and that wasn’t at all a bad place to be. At the same time, the Houston born businessman was also a producer and director of big-budget, early Hollywood cinema. In 1943, he directed and produced The Outlaw, an American Western which catapulted Jane Russell into fame and solidified her role as a so-called sex symbol. His third film, Two Arabian Knights, won an Oscar.

And while, during his lifetime, he remained one of the richest men on earth, he is best remembered for his eccentric character. By 1966, he had settled in the Las Vegas desert, holing himself up at the Desert Inn Hotel. When the hotel sought to evict him, the billionaire purchased both the business and its neighboring estates. A recluse who never left his suite, Hughes’s list of odd behaviors included owning a television network so that he could program the shows and films he wanted to watch, attempting to outlaw all rock festivals in the county, and speaking to his staff, a group of Mormon aides nicknamed the “Mormon Mafia”, only by ways of memos. While none of these actions could or have ever been confirmed, they are written into the businessman’s evolving historicization. By the time Hughes’ died in 1976 aboard one of his planes, his reclusive lifestyle and declined state had left him all but unrecognizable. Prints had to be taken to identify his body.

The Hoax (2006), a film starring Richard Gere, which has a 6.7/10 rating on IMDB and 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, tells the story of Clifford Irving, a New York journalist who sold a purportedly “authorized autobiography” of Hughes to his publisher. Without ever having spoken to Hughes, Gere/Irving claims to have a one-on-one correspondence with the reclusive billionaire granting him full access to his elusive life. In one of the film’s early sequences, Gere/Irving forges a letter, copying Hughes’s handwriting from another document printed in Time magazine, granting him(self) permission to recount Hughes’s biography. The letter is authenticated by handwriting experts and a deal is signed.

While Irving himself was a technical adviser to the film, by its completion he demanded to be taken out of the credits, describing the film as “a historically cock-eyed story.”

Brad Phillips lives and works in Toronto. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at Rod Bianco Gallery, Oslo; Harper’s Books, East Hamptons; 8-11, Toronto; Louis B. James Gallery, New York; Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver; Groeflin Maag Galerie, Basel; and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York. His work has been included in group shows such as Situational Comedy at 2467365, New York; Signs & Symbols, Jessica Bradley, Toronto; Summer Reading, The Hole, New York; The Painting Project, Galerie de l’UQAM, Montreal; Where I Lived For, Oakville Galleries, Oakville; and My Winnipeg, Maison Rouge, Paris. In 2015, Phillips published Suicidal Realism, a novel. His work has appeared in various publications including Mousse, Art Forum, Modern Painters, Hyperallergic, Bordercrossings, and Canadian Art. 

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