Joe Bradley (b. 1975)
signed and dated 'Joe Bradley 2015' (on the overlap)
oil on canvas mounted on board
64 x 60 in. (162.6 x 152.4 cm.)
Painted in 2015.
CANADA, New York
Private collection, New York
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Alex Berggruen
Alex Berggruen

Lot Essay

“The canvases are painted on both sides, so that faint areas of flat color, visible from the back, are in dialogue with heavily painted areas on the front, which often include contrasting colors laid over each other. The result is real visual electricity.” –Brian Boucher, Art in America, 2011
(B. Boucher, ‘Joe Bradley,’ in Art in America, 25 March 2011).

Joe Bradley’s Untitled from 2015 incorporates the artist’s trademark raw, color-speckled canvas exploding with renewed vigor. The rich surface of this work represents the artist’s unique ability to revive the traditions of abstract expressionism and infuse them with his unique, decidedly contemporary touch. Bradley’s dynamic brushwork creates a dynamic interplay among the diverse shapes and shades present on the canvas. Emphasizing an immersive painterly procedure that pays homage to the flair of Jackson Pollock, Bradley’s abstracted forms invigorate the genre with new explosions of color and texture.
The bright multi-colored forms burst forth from the center of the tawny canvas. These marks emerge as a result of Bradley’s practice of painting on both sides of the canvas that he has placed directly on the floor of his messy studio. In a Believer magazine interview he remarked on this practice: “I usually have some kind of source material to work off of–a drawing or a found image–but this ends up getting buried in the process,” he explains. “Most of the painting happens on the floor; then I’ll pin them up periodically to see what they look like on the wall. I work on both sides of the painting too. If one side starts to feel unmanageable, I’ll turn it over and screw around with the other side... because I am working on unprepared canvas, I get this bleed through. The oil paint will bleed through to the other side, so I get this sort of incidental mark” (J. Bradley, quoted in R. Simonini, “Joe Bradley,” Believer, July 2012, p. 65). This technique ensures that each of his canvases is infused with an individuality and spontaneity that is typical of abstract expressionist paintings.
In Untitled, the central passage of verdant green is interrupted by large swaths of pastel pink. Long linear white strokes streak the upper left portion of the canvas, juxtaposing the lighter and darker colors that testify to Bradley’s ability to synthesize conflicting forms within the same composition. A smattering of marigold emerges from the green, along with blue stains at the upper right hand corner of the canvas–a dynamic shade that compliments the energy inherent throughout the entire painting.
The sheer gusto of Bradley’s gesture is visible among several different swaths of color that Bradley imposed within this work. He masters both the linear, rigid forms as well as the gentle undulation that snakes along the bottom portion of the canvas. In his own words, Bradley summarized his artistic technique: “I work on them flat. I walk on them. They pick up paint and whatever else is on the floor. I like them to look really filthy” (J. Bradley, quoted in R. Simonini, “Joe Bradley,” The Believer, November-December 2012). There is an audacious, brawny virtuosity to Bradley’s work that he shares with Jackson Pollock; as the art critic Brian Boucher relates: “This rough treatment only adds to the allure” (B. Boucher, “Joe Bradley,” Art in America, March 2011).
With a painterly style that encompasses a broad range through its visual language, Joe Bradley utilizes a process-based approach to his works that allows him to develop his unique artistic vision. “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” (J. Bradley, quoted in S. LaCava, “Studio Visit: Joe Bradley,” Paris Review, No. 22, February 2011). His paintings in particular reflect this immersive quality that celebrates their raw source materials and informal qualities in a manner that disregards the hierarchy of painting.
Untitled pays homage to New York School painters such as Jackson Pollock, whose artistic process challenges traditional painterly methods by placing the canvas on the floor rather than the wall. This visual reorientation allows Bradley to articulate his style at his own leisure while simultaneously encouraging the viewer to do the same. By doing so, he fosters a collaborative environment that unifies the artist and viewer through these powerful abstracted forms. “I think that painting relates very neatly to inner travel,” he says, “and the exploration of inner worlds. With painting, I always get the impression that you’re sort of entering into a shared space. There’s everyone who’s painted in the past, and everyone who is painting in the present” (J. Bradley, quoted in L. Hoptman, Art: Joe Bradley,” Interview Magazine, 16 May 2013).

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