Joe Bradley - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Peres Projects, Los Angeles
    Private Collection

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Well, I think it’s kind of a natural catalyst. The human body is the starship we’re all operating from.” Joe Bradley, 2009

    Joe Bradley’s unequivocal and guileless compositional approach is among the first aspects one immediately perceives upon standing in the towering presence of Police Painting 2. Lines neatly converge and quadratic colors bound forms to construct a composition as variegated and intricate as Piet Mondrian’s vibrant grids of the 1940s. Only with a detailed eye can one detect the subtle implication of Bradley’s hand, and the intersections at which conceptual investigation and imagery collide. Though it is undeniably a product of the contemporary cultural moment, the present lot paradoxically does not evoke the time from which it has been created. Its timeless nature, the feeling of uncannily having experienced it before, manifests itself where the “now” indicates a novel form through the coexistence of historical influences. This wanton fusion of past techniques and styles can be considered as a stamp for our time in contemporary painting, as Bradley realizes it by breathing new life into historical movements such as the Minimalism and those of Colorfield. Importantly, the artist re-conceives themes from the traverses of the 20th century throughout his body of work, fundamentally stripping their expressions down to only the most conventional of forms. Police Painting 2 embodies the time-honored practice of painting, in the manner that Bradley engages with painting’s tradition of asking questions of its audience through concepts of ingenuity, transformation, and idiosyncrasy.

    The meteoric rise of Bradley has seen an enormous range of painterly techniques pop up what feels like overnight—from his highly geometric, assemblage robot men such as the present lot, to his silhouetted figures against empty backgrounds to, most recently, his primal abstract figures on raw canvases; the true consistency in his work is the impetus of his unique mind. The monochromatic canvases that hang into the shapes of primordial figures certainly allude to Minimalism, yet their ambiguous and amorphous forms intrigue a range of interpretations. Of these vast and seemingly unending associations, Bradley has commented, “The video game reference was completely unwanted by me, just a strange by-product. And although that body of work was definitely informed by Minimalism, as I started to get some feedback on it, I realized what people were focusing on” (D. Blair and J. Bradley, “Artists in Conversation, BOMB Magazine, 2009). The incredibly static and unchanging nature of the monolithic figures in Police Painting 2 seems to exude a peculiar stuttering, almost as if the work cannot quite speak its message. This implicit nihilism, a relic of the anxieties emerging from the New York school, the work seems only to hint at little more than its own existence. Neither process nor formalist art, the present lot produces its own dialect, providing us with phantom of symbology without any lexicon with which to decipher the glyphs.

    Through his consolidation of figuration and abstraction, the artist embraces uniformly the subjective models of post-war art in the 1970s and a presently humanist attitude to high culture. Particularly evident in Police Painting 2, Bradley reconstructs the gamut of Minimalist painting with a captivating impression of modesty and wit. The hued planes of Ellsworth Kelly’s Chatham VI: Red Blue of 1971 are debased in the present lot, though importantly the sublime piety of monochrome painting is maintained. His infusion of formalism with cartoonish farce provokes an audacious contemplation of the power radiating from a legible aesthetic. Of this untapped influence, Bradley describes, “I find that oftentimes I’ll approach a subject with a certain degree of irony or distance, and then through the process of working and spending time with it, I come out the other end a true believer” (D. Blair and J. Bradley, “Artists in Conversation, BOMB Magazine, 2009). His uniquely futuristic style teases the mass commodification of art while speaking to the endless opportunities of contemporary art making. Laying bare the most essential forms of pictorial imagery in Police Painting 2, Bradley epitomizes the crux of characterization, elevating the shorthand of exchange of information to the renown of fine art esteem. The duopoly of crude humanoids in Police Painting 2 affirms the process of illusion, disclosing a narrative and a gesture through the elementary characteristics of line, color, shape and composition.

    Through his espousal of the reductive, Bradley directly confronts the problems with painting. His calculated championing of the ordinary mixes the disparate history of painting with the banal imagery of the twenty-first century to develop his own pictorial language of figuration. Beyond its flippant satire, Bradley’s Police Painting 2 answers the disconnection of linear abstraction with a warm affectation, as the two figures gently rest next to each other sharing boundaries and sense of purpose. The work compels integrity through its downplay of technique. When speaking to the commanding demeanor of his robot paintings, Bradley has expressed, “I hoped that those pieces had a sculptural presence, but without entering into sculpture. I love looking at sculpture, but there's some sort of spell that's broken with it. I think you do kind of slip into a trance when you look at a painting. At least I do.” (L.M Hoptman, "Joe Bradley" Interview Magazine, 2013).

Ο ◆4

Police Painting 2

acrylic on canvas, in 7 parts
119 x 80 in. (302.3 x 203.2 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "Police Painting #2 Bradley 08" on the reverse of each element.

$1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for $1,205,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm