Joe Bradley - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Part of Joe Bradley’s distinct series of block paintings, SS Blackheart is a monumental example of the artist’s abstract practice. The present work was executed in 2014, the same year the artist had his mid-career survey at Le Consortium, Dijon, and just three years before his first museum show in the United States at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo. Recalling the hard-edge paintings of Ellsworth Kelly and Mary Heilmann’s checkerboards, Joe Bradley’s SS Blackheart is a large-scale investigation into abstraction.


    With a sly nod to its minimalist forebears, Bradley’s titling imbues the work with another layer of meaning. Immediately recalling the checkered flag that indicates the end of an automotive race, SS Blackheart is at once recognizable and enigmatic: “SS” suggests “super sports” and “Blackheart” is both an exhaust brand and fictional (and demonic) Marvel character. The present work alludes to machismo concepts of strength, all the while portraying a misbalance of black and white passages. Similar works to SS Blackheart were exhibited together at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, in 2014, where they together show Bradley’s thoughtful investigation of color, form, balance and structure. Much like Mary Heilmann’s 1989 Le Mans, its title referring to the eponymous sports car race, SS Blackheart puts forth a more process-driven approach to abstraction that synthesizes an investigation of color and form with contemporary life.  


    Mary Heilmann, Le Mans, 1989. Artwork: Courtesy of the artist, 303 Gallery, New York, and Hauser & Wirth

    Bradley’s oeuvre is fundamentally process-driven. The artist’s early devotion to abstraction is justified by his interest in “painting as an object” where the subject was “arbitrary.”i Bradley’s continuous balancing of sculptural and painterly elements in his work earned the artist much acclaim, especially with regards to his modular series of anthropomorphized robotic figures. This series would be given global attention on the occasion of the 2008 Whitney Biennial, where they were exhibited alongside images by John Baldessari and Patrick Hill.ii Bradley’s use of contrast in SS Blackheart recalls this idea of a constructed image; the composition appears as an assembled “object,” blurring the lines between painting and sculpture.

    “Painting is very satisfying but not exactly fun. I like the pace of it. I like that it’s an experience that resists media. You have to be there in front of it to experience it—that’s a rare item these days.”
    —Joe Bradley


    i Joe Bradley, quoted in Phyllis Tuchman, “Joe Bradley: Work in Progress,” Gagosian Quarterly, Winter 2018, online

    ii Holland Cotter, “Art’s Economic Indicator,” The New York Times, March 7, 2008, online

    • Provenance

      Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


SS Blackheart

acrylic on canvas, in 3 parts
120 1/8 x 160 in. (305.1 x 406.4 cm)
Painted in 2014.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023