“Whether you like it or not, you�re a fool”

The press release for Joe Bradley’s show at CANADA declares that his new grease-pencil paintings “draw on the paradox between the modernist impulse towards a raw source of art in the ‘primitive’ and the seamless presentation of a resolved art object. The Schmagoo Paintings are comparable to both Jean Dubuffet’s use of the art of the insane as a road map to authenticity and Robert Crumbs sketch books full of aggressively comic and self aware thought bombs.” In Frieze Magazine Chris Sharp suggests that Bradley’s new work responds to the minuscule art-fair attention-span of our time. “It can (and should) be consumed in no less than the time it takes to walk in, chortle, and walk out of the gallery. When Martin Barr� (a very generous reference) did just as little with white canvases and black spray paint in the early 1960s, it was radical and even beautiful. But here and now with Bradley it is just plain dumb, though that is the point. Whether I, or anyone, likes it or dislikes it is actually beside the point. Which is also very much the point. This kind of work wields the uncanny ability to render all who enter its orbit complicit. It�s a kind of 2008 Lower East Side counterpart to Jeff Koons – though rendered much more poorly. Squarely operating within a paradigm of post-sincerity – it is neither sincere or insincere, having transcended such issues – its mere existence acts as a cerebral black hole, engendering critical paralysis. Any possible reaction you may have to it has been foreseen and theoretically integrated into the work, such that reacting is vain. Whether you like it or not, you�re a fool. And if you profess indifference to it you�re likewise a fool, because such painterly antics require a stand that no one can make. It�s like a work of high modernist fiction – Borges, or Cortazar perhaps – in which you realize that you are part of the plot, but by the time you do – standing in front of the painting or reading this review – it�s too late.” Read more.

Joe Bradley: Schmagoo Paintings,” CANADA, New York, NY. Through Nov. 30.


  1. I enjoyed reading about Joe Bradley’s work. Maybe it helps that I also am reading “DADA” a book compiled and edited by Robert Motherwell in 1951. There does seem to be a similar subversive note to Bradley’s work, i.e. not painting FOR and audience, but painting AT them.

    Frankly, although he should not care, I do like his paintings shown on the Frieze site. Although I could do without the ‘lines’.

  2. Dear Cross – considering the time & the place DADA was an absolutely extraordinary 'happening'. Looking at Bradley's work( true in JPEG form only), & considering the time & place,it seems to have all the qualities of a cop out parading under the banner of something so nebulous that you can attach whatever you please but that sill doesn't change it's essential character – the cop out factor or, if you prefer, gutlessness.

  3. I didn’t mean to de-mean DADA. But for me subversive is a good thing in art. And when viewers want meaning and content, and the artist withholds it from them, that is the subversion. Subversion of expectation is a quality in itself.

    So my (semi)sarcastic comment about the lines really says that I want less from these paintings. Let me assume that you want more from them. Thus, Bradley subverts both our desires by giving too much and too little simultaneously.

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