Joe Bradley, Paintings and Interview

Brian White

  • KBP Note
    Joe Bradley, if you are reading this.... I'd still like to know anything about "The Elvis Room" in Portsmouth, NH in the 90's. Not sure if you ever went there...but if you did could you let us know what the deal was?


Brian White
What is the latest thing you've been working on - has it grown out of the Schmagoo paintings or is it something entirely its own?

Joe Bradley
Well, I just had two shows open in New York- "Mouth and Foot Painting" at Gavin Brown's enterprise and "Human Form" at CANADA. Both shows have roots in the Schmagoo paintings. The paintings in "Mouth and Foot" were all made on unprimed canvas, like the Schmagoo stuff, but were made with oil paint- oil sticks and crayons. They're greasier and more painterly. Dirtier. I wanted to make them really disgusting. The Schmagoo paintings were very simple and "one shot"- these have gotten much more involved, it's more about teasing something out of paint, letting the painting reveal itself. "Human Form" is a group of silkscreen paintings- just black sillouettes of figures in these goofy egyptian poses on primed canvas.

Brian White
The Schmagoo paintings seemed to be about big ideas within the syntax of simple circumstances--

Joe Bradley
I think I know what you mean. Making a painting of the cross... it's a terrible idea on paper. Maybe it's just a terrible idea period. But somehow I thought that painting was OK. When you are dealing with "big ideas", the stakes are high. It's more meaningful that way. It could be everything or nothing at all. You either win big or go home broke...



Brian White
Where does the specific imagery for your paintings pull from? Do you have a filtering method that defines what gets in and what doesn't?

Joe Bradley
It's all sort of flotsam. In the Schmagoo show, the idea of the cross and the Superman logo... I liked the idea of Christ as a super-hero. And I always liked that... what was the play? Jesus Christ Superstar? Kind of a hippy reimagining of the story of Christ- the Jesus character wears a Superman T-shirt with rainbow suspenders... I don't know. "Abelmuth", the painting of the Christ fish inside the mouth of a larger fish, I borrowed from Philip K. Dick. That was a sketch in his Exegesus, a long meditation on the nature of reality that Dick wrote after he had lost his mind in the 70's. He had all these great little sketches in there, and that one really resonated with me... seems to symbolize the end of history or something. The more recent paintings don't really depend on... imagery as much.

Brian White
Is there some loose ideology or manifesto in your paintings? At times it feels like you're trying speak very directly about something.

Joe Bradley
I don't think there is any kind of... uh... there's no lesson in it.. at all... and... there are many blind spots... (laughs) I don't know. No.

Brian White
Well, what is it about those blind spots?

Joe Bradley
What I'm trying to say is... I'm not in love with my own voice or my own hand. I'm not trying to illustrate a point or a position. I have nothing in particular to say, you know ? I'm learning. When I work I feel like I'm fumbling around for something and I just get my fingers on it for a second. The best paintings feel like it came from somewhere else. I wanna look at my work and feel like I'm looking at someone else's work. I want to be able to look at one of my own paintings in the same way I would look at a Rothko at the MOMA or somthing. I don't like my own handwriting. I'm not interested in my... I've got nothing to say (laughs).

Brian White
That'll be the pull quote.

Joe Bradley
(laughs) "I've got nothing to say."


Brian White
What is it about working within restrictions that you're so drawn to?

Joe Bradley
Painting... there are only so many moves you can make in the first place. It's the nuance in painting that matters. The idea that you can load an object with information. There's something about a painting.... you could sit in a room with it for hours and the painting would look like it had been sat with for hours. It's like fly-paper. Thoughts stick to it. I wish that I could just come here to my studio, wrap myself up in canvas and wake up in the morning and there would be some sort of result. That would be nice. It's not the act of painting that is interesting... What was the question?