Albright-Knox Art Gallery August 31st, 2017
Joe Bradley (American, born 1975) is widely known for his powerful abstract paintings and instinctive drawings. This mid-career survey illustrates how, with minimal fuss, he also pivots between abstraction and figuration, the earnest and the comic. By contextualizing Bradley’s diverse bodies of work from the past decade, the exhibition captures his ever-changing approach to artmaking and unique take on abstraction and the evolutions of style. He has observed, “I think that time moves slower in painting. And maybe that accounts for a lot of the anxiety around painting in the last forty or fifty years. You have the twentieth century wrapping up and everything is moving at this breakneck speed? And then, painting is still walking. It’s just a very human activity that takes time.”
Bradley grew up in large family in Kittery, Maine, and remembers drawing from a young age. He was fascinated with comics both mainstream and underground, everything from Marvel to R. Crumb. Bradley recalls, “I think I could have made it as a gag cartoonist, but somehow painting took over.” When he began studying art as an undergraduate at the Rhode Island School of Design, Bradley discovered art history and started devouring paintings from the 1960s and 1970s by the Chicago Imagists and Philip Guston, the spontaneous drawings of Cy Twombly and A. R. Penck, and the heavily layered nineteenth-century landscapes of Albert Pinkham Ryder.
The exhibition begins with examples of two “modular” paintings—multiple canvases assembled into oddly humorous humanoid figures—like those shown in Bradley’s first New York solo exhibition in 2006. Subsequent galleries focus on different bodies of work from the past decade, including Bradley’s quickly sketched and immediately engaging drawings and his Schmagoo paintings: a series of grease-pencil drawings on canvas that debuted in 2008. Several galleries are dedicated to Bradley’s densely layered expressionistic abstract canvases, dating from 2010 to the present, that record the detritus and spontaneity of the studio environment. The exhibition also includes examples of Bradley’s recent figurative bronzes based on found amateur sculpture and his silkscreen paintings based on the wide-ranging images—from comics to outdated periodicals—that so often inspire his work.
This exhibition is organized by Senior Curator Cathleen Chaffee.