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Exhibition Spotlight—Joe Bradley: Drawings

July 6, 2017

Joe Bradley (American, born 1975). Untitled, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 24 x 18 inches (61 x 45.7 cm). Courtesy the artist. Photograph by Thomas Müller, courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome. © 2017 Joe Bradley

Joe Bradley’s mid-career survey is currently on view at the Albright-Knox. On the blog, we’re taking a closer look at each of the artist’s diverse bodies of work from the past decade, including his drawings.

Piles of books, records, zines, vintage yearbooks, comics, pamphlets, and all manner of printed ephemera litter Bradley’s studio. Along with graffiti, children’s drawings, and many other unconventional sources of inspiration, these help motivate his drawings, which are in turn deeply connected to all of his other artwork.

Bradley doesn’t like using good paper to make his drawings, claiming it would be “like cheating—to start with something beautiful.” Using cheap materials also means he might make twenty drawings at a sitting and throw away eighteen with no thought of waste. The two remaining drawings are often the first attempt and the last, the least self-conscious of the bunch, done when he’s utterly out of energy. For Bradley the best work comes with either freshness or exhaustion, and getting to either place means feeling some degree of comfort in his situation.