On this month at Campoli Presti’s Paris exhibition space, artist Katherine Bradford marks her fourth show with the gallery. Exploring the world of acrobats, their colorful costumes and masks as a study of form and color, the artist uses this framework as a way to explore societies and mico-cultures through whichartists and spectators are projected.
The imagery of the commedia dell’arte has inspired a large number of works throughout art history and has held a particular fascination amongst modern artists, and here are reflected in Bradford’s subtle, curved forms and gentle abstractions of the figure and its details. Taking these images and techniques as a reflection of culture, of community, and of a society constructed of shared values, the artist here takes on similar notes and forms. The work’s points of connection with the visual arena of the circus start thus with simple shapes and figures. Stripes and patterned apparel have been recurring Bradford’s work as a way to organize figures but also to stress the relationship between foreground and background. Lined tents, diamond-shaped patches or circular juggling props recompose not only a theme but a particular way of embracing abstraction, using shape, colors and gestural marks to achieve a visual effect. Trapeze artists convey movement and airiness to the canvas while also providing structure to the composition. The gravity-free environment of the circus can also relate to earlier paintings in which floating figures like swimmers and flying superheroes attempt to traverse the picture plane – sometimes awkwardly, like in High Wire Act (2023).
The figures in Bradford’s new paintings continue to address the nature of social interactions. Masks are explored here as a theatrical metaphor to explain how one presents oneself in different social situations. Communication is mediated either by body movements, gestures and acrobatic skills, but also by props like cloud swings, high wires and hoops. In Circus performers with blue horse (2023), humans reach out, bear the weight of or attract one another in isolated scenes yet tied together by the broader gaze of the viewer, an active part of the spectacle’s audience. Juggling can be a meditative, solitary activity, but balls and props can also be a strong means of communication between players. Between melancholia, playfulness, mutual support and collaboration, the works delve into the environment of the circus to reflect on performance within the artistic community.’
The show closes June 17th.
– D. Creahan
Katherine Bradford at Campoli Presti [Exhibition Site]