Joe Bradley - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
    Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above by the present owner)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Untitled is a striking example of Joe Bradley’s breakthrough series of “robot” paintings. Executed in 2009, the work was conceived in the immediate aftermath of his inclusion in the Whitney Biennial, New York, in 2008, which catapulted him to critical acclaim. Since 2004, Bradley has been creating his signature series of modular canvas configurations that are widely referred to as “robot” paintings for their resemblance to pared geometric people and objects. In Untitled, the central white horizontal canvas is framed by six narrow, vertical canvases that are alternatively painted blue, red and black. Articulating the notion that color can stand for itself without having to serve a specific representation, Bradley has notably chosen the very ready-made register of cadmium red that Donald Judd defined as “the only color that really makes an object sharp and defines its contours and angles”, here granting the color almost sculptural authority (Donald Judd, quoted in Joe Bradley, exh. cat., Albright-Knox-Gallery, Buffalo, 2017, p. 43). While recalling the crisp abstractions of Ellsworth Kelly, Untitled specifically alludes to Piet Mondrian in its limited formal vocabulary of primary colors, values and directions. And yet, with a sly nod to these artistic forebears, Bradley characteristically undermines any higher claims to abstraction by configuring his pristine color fields to resemble totem-like figures.

    As Bradley explained, “Those paintings were a real leap for me. It was the first time I made something that felt very much my own” (Joe Bradley, quoted in Eric Troncy, “Joy Bradley”, Frog Magazine, vol. 4, Fall/Winter, 2014-15, online). Though often considered to evoke video game references, Bradley essentially aimed to imbue his canvases with a palpable presence he felt were lacking in traditional painting. “I didn’t want them to function like normal paintings,” Bradley pointed out, “I didn’t want the viewer to get caught up in the details, color, composition. I wanted the paintings to project some sort of personality, I suppose. I was hoping they would send off a signal, in the same way that a person does if you are in a room with another human being. So making these kind of figure-like shapes out of groups of monochromatic canvases, I thought was a straightforward way of making that explicit, that desire to have them function in the same way…Well, if you are in a bar and there is a baseball game on the TV, it’s almost impossible to keep your eyes off of it, even if you have no interest in baseball. Painting has the same kind of effect on me, it doesn’t matter what the painting is. There is something about the screen, and paintings are a sort of screen…they are like doorways” (Joe Bradley, quoted in Eric Troncy, “Joy Bradley”, Frog Magazine, vol. 4, Fall/Winter, 2014-15).



each signed and consecutively numbered "Joe Bradley" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas, in 7 parts
overall 119 x 84 in. (302.3 x 213.4 cm.)
Executed in 2009.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $615,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 2017