Joe Bradley has been holding a solo exhibition at a gallery in New York since 2003. But his latest work in Petzl (for the first time in six years) feels like the first show for the rest of his career.
His new painting is a work of strong colors that gracefully balances expression and abstraction. They may be the most customary of Bradley’s career, but they are also the most attractive.
Bradley devoted the first decade of his resume to a painting called ironic anti-painting. They were conceptual and challenging: you had to decide if they were eligible for painting. The best of these minimal pieces was a series of giant raw canvases boasting a single motif outlined with black oil crayons. Although it was a monument, it had a graffiti-like intimacy, and it was drawn all at once without adjustment, which was impressive.
Then, at the transition, Bradley began painting dirty canvas, whose footprints and paint drips were part of the composition, with a wide brush. These were rough and beautifully scaled. But somewhere between Julian Schnabel and Abstract Expressionism, the play of intent for accidents was well known.
It’s no coincidence, but Bradley’s trajectory has accelerated. In 2011, he left Canada for Gavin Brown’s business and three more solos after three solos. In 2016 he joined Gagosian. Gagosian is the pinnacle of unknown success in treating young artists with care. He left in 2021 after having one show in New York and three shows elsewhere.
Currently, Bradley is just painting, self-aware, interesting and unrealistic. He covers most of the canvas and works with a narrow brush. This eliminates the need for large gestures and brings you closer to the surface. The color is the same heat. White lines pass through them, form shapes, and divide the area into wide patchwork, including mountainous profiles and flat field suggestions. This happens most poetically in “Jubilee”. There, three different green fields and two mountains wobble between flat and deep.
There are a lot of adjustments now. Often, he fills one color with another, or adds a cluster of dots to this shape or shape. There is significant indifference to closing something. There is an active glimpse of what is below.
Art history is evoked diagonally. Towards the center of “Fool’s errands”, a dark blue rectangle brightened by some white dots floats above the red field. It’s Monet in the box.
At the heart of the “cameo” is a skirmish of bright yellow, red jabs and dots, and two black lines. The battlefield is a large overlapping pair of crosses in a black and red amplified version of that of the Russian constructivist Kazimir Malevich. Elsewhere, motifs seem to have materialized in the process, such as the brown face wrapped in laurel and the suggestion of “outline” pizza slices.
The show is titled “Bhoga Marga” and Bradley translates it from Sanskrit to “The Path of Permanent Experience.” The question that comes to mind is not “Is this a picture?” But the answer is clear: “How was this picture made?” The artist progressed point by point in a continuous circuit of seeing, thinking (or feeling), and executing. You only have to open your eyes to follow his steps.
Joe Bradley: Bhoga Marga
Until April 30th at Petzel on 456 West 18th Street in Manhattan. (212) 680-9467, petzel.com.