Currently on at Gagosian Beverly Hills, artist Joe Bradley is presenting a body of new works, continuing the artist’s complex and occasionally irreverent visual language through a wide range of formats and materials. Marking the gallery’s most recent entry in its annual Oscars Weekend exhibition series, the exhibition is the artist’s first solo show with the gallery in Los Angeles, a fitting introduction to his work that draws widely from his recent output.
Eric’s Hair is a fairly strong introduction to Bradley’s work for the uninitiated, exploring both his vivid modes of gestural abstraction and his more resigned pieces, each of which take up separate spaces at Gagosian’s expansive Beverly Hills gallery space. In the main rooms, the artist’s large-scale canvases are a particular draw, underscoring the paradoxical relationships of urgency and craft that seem to be a recurring thread in the artist’s work. The brusque, heavy-handed stabs of paint that often define his canvases obscure a delicate sense of layering and color that presents itself upon repeat viewings. One can follow Bradley’s attention to form and counterpoint through the borders and gaps separating each block of color in these works, seams in the canvas’s construction that also hint at the layers of paint beneath. Following edges and brushstrokes present moments of strange interplay in the layering of his pieces, often giving sections of his piece a sense of illusion.
Elsewhere, Bradley is more direct, allowing layers of paint to define and counter each other, often building several coats of paint into a play on the concept of shadow or foreground that dissolves back into the flat expanse of the canvas. These are exercises in verticality, allowing the artist’s operations on the canvas to play with the form as both a two dimensional form and a space for sculptural arrangement. In other works, like Da Free John, his hand gives itself over to a more playful and expressive tone, dashing across the stained canvas surface to create swirling hulks of color that dart in and out of cartoonish figuration. Even the title itself seems to flirt with some sort of narrative structure, eventually crumbling under the dissonances of its grammar, a point that finds an echo in the artist’s approach.
By contrast, the gallery spaces upstairs present works suspended in a sort of minimalist repose, small-scale pieces repeating the artist’s familiar blocky glyph, a recurring image throughout his body of work. Presented here in a range of formats, from three-tone drawings to collaged materials (and even one creating the same figure from a restrained trio of separated brushstrokes), the pieces see Bradley continuing his exploration of his favored forms, using them as a framework for expanded interests in text and graphic variation. This sense of exploration, in conjunction with a carefully honed focus, makes for a notable entry in the artist’s work.
Bradley’s work is on view through April 8th.
— D. Creahan
Joe Bradley: Eric’s Hair [Gagosian Gallery]