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Exhibition Spotlight—Joe Bradley: Schmagoo Paintings

July 25, 2017

Joe Bradley (American, born 1975). Superman, 2008. Grease pencil on canvas, 70 x 60 inches (177.8 x 152.4 cm). Hall Art Foundation. Photograph courtesy CANADA, LLC. © 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 Schmagoo paintings.

When Bradley’s modular paintings began to become increasingly mechanical in their construction—vinyl configurations planned on paper and with a measuring tape—the artist decided to move on. He recounts, “My studio practice was starting to feel like manual labor, just staple gunning all day long.”

For his next body of work, the Schmagoo paintings (begun in 2008 and named after their debut gallery show), he took quite a different tack, attempting to merge painting with his critical and ongoing drawing practice. Works such as Superman monumentalize the simple sketch by presenting a single, unsophisticated glyph at a scale that demands one’s undivided attention.  Marks of Bradley’s process—smudges, footprints, and general studio grime—also become part of the otherwise spare visual field in the Schmagoo paintings. This underscores a lack of preciousness and suggests an openness to the idea of “building damage into the work,” something that has interested the artist throughout his practice.