Indecision 2011: On Joe Bradley’s Human Forms at CANADA

by Paddy Johnson on January 27, 2011 · 18 comments Opinion

Joe Bradley's Human Form at Canada Gallery. Installation view.

I can’t seem to get off the Joe Bradley fence. Are these paintings funny (in the haha art way*) or are they just not very good? I wasn’t impressed when I saw the work in person last Friday at CANADA, but I tend to change my mind about Bradley’s work after sitting with it a while. Perhaps I need to visit Gavin Brown to see his concurrent show of abstractions at Gavin Brown to really understand the work. Still, right now, I’m thinking the painting’s probably aren’t very good but with a little less certainty than I had last weekend.

*haha art way = a sensibility specific to the art world whereby the mildly absurd is interpreted as LOL funny.

Joe Bradley's Human Form at Canada Gallery. Installation view.

Joe Bradley's Human Form at Canada Gallery. Installation view.

*This post was updated to include a mention of Bradley concurrent solo show at Gavin Brown.

  • Julie

    A definite *meh* for me. Not bad, just not interesting.

  • http://giovannigf.wordpress.com/ GiovanniGF

    Awful! While his concurrent show at Gavin Brown was much more interesting.

    • Anonymous

      Looks like I have to see the show there now. I haven’t seen it yet.

  • Anonymous

    So *meh* I’m not even going to bother writing a whole

  • Greendogart

    both shows take slacker-art to whole new levels of boredom…

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  • vc

    Is he taking on leonardo and malevich re: idealization and generalization, of the human form and/or form in general? reduced, repeated, trivialized?

  • Rour

    I’m surprised no one has mention the subtle blue lines that traced parts of the outlines of these figures. Before I noticed these I was wondering about the effectiveness of the slacker esthetic but once I noticed this small detail and realized that it had the function of creating an optical illusion making the blue line appear to follow completely around the outlined figures, I was both surprised and intrigued.

    I spent more time with the pieces walking up close and trying to figure out which blue outlines were actually painted and which were part of the optical illusion which seemed to spread around the room onto the other figures the more I looked for it. It was a small element which seemed to go unnoticed by many people but is part of the eloquence which separates and elevates Bradley’s work above a what could be first perceived as a one liner.

  • Nope

    a nice follow up to some of his earlier figuration.

  • jan john

    Man, I know I’d be a little pissed if I was an artist whose work was getting judged by tiny pictures on a computer

  • Rally

    The two shows (Canada and Gavin Brown) may seem as different as night and day, but both are powerful extensions of Bradley’s art-making practice. The GB show is a furious culmination of the “schmagoo” paintings that debuted at Canada a couple of years ago — taking that hesitant and child-like line to angry, scrubbed fields of paintstick and debris. The Canada show revives and reincarnates the monumental figures of the “robots” from Bradley’s first show at Canada — another race of giants presented with a completely new kind of economy, but still brimming with character and pathos despite their humble means. I have followed the work for years and remain a believer. Forget the “badass, badboy” labels and just look. This is serious work by a serious artist.

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  • http://twitter.com/lposcar LP_oscar

    yeah. “Meh.”

  • Michelle

    What a joke! I have seen his work many times before and, as always, it’s the result is pure laziness. He tries to make the the weakest art possible and then sits back and watches as people over-rate and over analyze it. Pure arrogance. Crap. Crap. Crap. Joe, please go away and make some room for an artist who works hard and really does care.

    • Rally

      I love the phrase “tries to make the weakest art possible” – sounds like an interesting and hard-won endeavor to me! That said, I don’t believe that Bradley “tries for weakness” rather I feel he works very hard to create work that remains open in part due to its vulnerability and provisional state. The work is in a suspended state of “becoming” and does not seek that fixed finality of perfect execution — at least perfect in the traditional sense.

      In sculpture – compare Agathe Snow with Thomas Houseago. The former is in a continuous and emotional state of flux (exciting) while the latter achieves well honed formal perfection and dies in the process. Although I bet you also hate Agathe’s work…

      • Michelle

        I like the phrases “vulnerability” and “provisional state”. One can find more vulnerability in a ‘homeless sign’. As for ‘provisional state’, the dumpsters outside of any freshman art class are full of excellent examples of that. Lazy art by a lazy artist. He is only working hard to put more money in his pocket while doing the very minimum in the studio. There is nothing thoughtful about that. Just a sense of entitlement. An attitude of “I deserve to be rewarded just for being me regardless of what I do”. It is simply a joke that is being played on anyone who buys into the BS. “The King has no pants!” Yet people are afraid to say this because they do not want to look stupid. Sad really…

        • H-son

          What is really sad is your anger. So you don’t like the work – fine. So you find it lazy – fine. But who are you to crap on what others find compelling and worthwhile. Why should Bradley go away? There is room for everyone, and constructive discourse is a good thing.

          So how about sharing what you really mean by lazy. Is it the number of hours spent on the work, which I assume you somehow know? Is it the amount of time Bradley spent thinking about what to do? Is it the thickness of the paint? It’s absence? Or are you just angry in general?

          To say that people are afraid to say the king has no pants is laughable. That is all they seem to be saying — so you are the one running with the herd as far as I can tell.

          • Michelle

            H-son, there is no anger. It is called an opinion. You can have yours as well. Lazy: lazy is not about man-hours. Lazy is about thought. Not how much thought that someone put into something. How can can anyone know that? But, and this is my point, Bradley does not offer his audience any reasoning behind his decisions. Are these works referring specifically to an idea? If so, how? Please explain. How are these works valid? How and why are they any different than what a child craps in his pants? If there is no difference, then how and why? It is my right as a viewer to know these things because the viewer decides if a work art artist is valid or not. It is the artists responsibility to explain their-self. If they do not, then the audience is let wondering if they, indeed, know what they are doing or not. You say constructive discourse is a good thing, well that is what this is. Art is serious business and arttists should treat it that way. If they do not, then they and their work will come off as a joke.

          • Michelle

            H-son, there is no anger. It is called an opinion. You can have yours as well. Lazy: lazy is not about man-hours. Lazy is about thought. Not how much thought that someone put into something. How can can anyone know that? But, and this is my point, Bradley does not offer his audience any reasoning behind his decisions. Are these works referring specifically to an idea? If so, how? Please explain. How are these works valid? How and why are they any different than what a child craps in his pants? If there is no difference, then how and why? It is my right as a viewer to know these things because the viewer decides if a work art artist is valid or not. It is the artists responsibility to explain their-self. If they do not, then the audience is let wondering if they, indeed, know what they are doing or not. You say constructive discourse is a good thing, well that is what this is. Art is serious business and arttists should treat it that way. If they do not, then they and their work will come off as a joke.

          • Michelle

            PS. (and if I have any type-os please forgive me. I am typing with my thumb on my Android) Saying that you did something because you “thought is was cool” or you just “like it” is not an explanation. We are adults and we can do better than that.

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