Joe Bradley meets Ab Ex

 Joe Bradley, installation views at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise.

Joe Bradley, “Pigpen (#2),” 2010, oil on canvas, 97 x 72″
Joe Bradley, “Mouth and Foot (Ichthus),” 2010, oil on canvas, 78 1/4 x 100″

I like the look of Joe Bradley’s new paintings at Gavin Brown and the hallucinatory conflation of the painting process with taking a shit, masturbating, looking for god, and taking drugs in his press release: “On the can, waiting for a sign. If there’s one thing seems I’ve got going for me it’s this. I can do it for hours on end. Hunched over the crossword like a big cat, eyes fixed on it’s prey (just kidding…) and after a while it becomes absurd, so I leave. A half hour later the mark realizes no ones home and shrugs the whole thing off. ‘Paranoia’ he says ‘must be bad shit…Stood still all day for nothing.’ It’s like my mother said, ‘I am waiting for God to show me his face.’ Snatches of him through the brush, an odd reflection in the water….I imagine God as a beautiful woman with his teeth kicked out. The rose and thorn create a problem, a sort of feed back loop… You can look and look and never learn a thing.”

Bradley has returned to painting after his coy outings with grease pencil on canvas at Canada and  painted frames at Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Perhaps he has sheepishly begun to find meaning in the painting process. Just as likely, however, he saw MoMA’s Abstract Expressionism show and is riffing on the earnest way they slung paint back in the day. In the New York Observer, Will Heinrich argues that Bradley’s more painterly images still don’t mean anything.  “A line of framed pencil, ink and crayon drawings are hit or miss: a simple round face with back-and-forth hair and a triangle nose, or a stick-legged figure on the back of a ripped orange flier, balance childish impulse perfectly with an adult eye. Yet a cartoon hand holding a cross not only doesn’t mean anything but doesn’t even mean anything by not meaning anything.

“The paintings, floating cacophonies of simple colors and not-quite images on dirty, untreated canvas, are like Turing-test koans�they dare the viewer to think about them. The cock of ‘Mouth and Foot (Cock and Balls),’ for example, is a black, whale-shaped outline with a red windowpane in its face; the Christian fish of ‘Mouth and Foot (Ichthus)’ is inside an almond-shaped mouth with six pointy teeth; and ‘Mouth and Foot (Bust)’ is a pixelated nipple that’s really a man that’s really two stacked canvases with schematic circles for breasts. Of course, real koans have answers. The sound of one hand clapping, for example, is a slap.”

 Joe Bradley, installation view, 2008. Image courtesy Canada.

Joe Bradley: Mouth and Foot Painting,” Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New york, NY. Through February 19, 2011.

Related Posts: 
Joe Bradley at Canada: “Whether you like it or not, you�re a fool”
NY Times Art in Review: Avery, Martin, Bradley, Parsons, Crow
“A No Paintings Biennial would’ve at least made everyone hysterical”

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