Written by Mary Ore for Luxe Magazine
Raised in a house with a 24-hour wedding chapel as the living room, Oakland painter Donald Bradford couldn’t help but start out in performance art. “There was a pulpit and pews, and there were two bathrooms where the couple could change, and they would come out in their wedding clothes,” he recalls. While his uncle led the service, he and his cousins peeked out from the kitchen door, giggling at the height of the drama–the kiss.
Fast forward past the third-grade teacher who noticed his artistic talent, past the bully he distracted with quick sketches of Mickey Mouse, past the two years in college studying theater arts, to the moment he realized acting made him too nervous. Bradford turned to painting, although his early canvases have a performative feel: He staged his friends in scenes from mythology and the Bible, and then he painted them.
Bradford has long moved on from theatrical scenes, but his interest in narrative–and ritual–remains. He tends to do more than a dozen paintings on a theme, and his series have included 1940s love letters between a Petaluma suitor and a Wellesley College student; open books about artists; his own bulletin boards on which, Bradford says, “images and news clippings were chosen to almost set up a narrative.” In all of these works, story is suggested, but not unfolded, for the viewer. While there’s reverence, there’s also wit, as in one series in which he isolates the ritual objects of a wedding and examines each one.
These are still lifes with a modernist attitude. “The classical, typical still life is a whole bunch of stuff,” Bradford says. “But I have austere, flat backgrounds, and I like doing a really simple thing– one glass with a flower in it, one open book, one votive candle.” The Bay Area Figurative Movement was inevitably an influence. “I’m probably more of a ‘painterly painter’ because of them,” says Bradford. “From far away, my work can appear photographic, but up close, the brushstrokes are very loose.” His palette, inspired by Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, is primarily “beautiful shades of white and grays with accents of color,” Bradford says. “You’d never call me a bright colorist.”
The artist’s studio is three rooms off the house he shared with his late partner, Richard Bassett, a textile and Braille artist. They each had a studio and shared a “dirty studio” in between. Since Bassett’s death five years ago, “I just spread out,” says Bradford. “I go back and forth between paintings–undercoats or drawings on one, which I can make in a distracted mood, or filling out details on another, which requires real concentration.”
Throughout the studio, a new series is in progress. When friends traveling in Europe sent the artist photos of hand-written prayers parishioners left in churches, Bradford soon began to write his own–for a beloved cousin with cancer, for ill friends or for those affected by mass shootings. His Prayer Paintings will appear in a solo show at the Andrea Schwartz Gallery in San Francisco from June 13 to July 20. Here, both ritual and story come together, but in these paintings, the words, too, are his own.
Photos by Brandon Sullivan
Written by Leah Garchik for SF Chronicle:
Five years ago, East Bay artist Donald Bradford was driving his truck across the Bay Bridge, delivering a bunch of his paintings to be shown in an exhibition at the Andrea Schwartz Gallery in San Francisco, when a strong wind blew four of them into the bay. The paintings focused on love, marriage and Proposition 8.
Bradford’s latest show, “Prayer Paintings,” opened at the same gallery on Wednesday, June 13. Two weeks ago, he received an email from Carey Bell, a stranger living in Kansas. Several months after the painting, “Wedding Gown,” had gone for a swim, Carey found it floating near the shore of Alameda.
He’d been working as a subcontractor for a Navy project at the Alameda Naval Base, wrote Carey, inspecting an area on the north side of the base to make sure that radiation had not escaped a controlled zone. The shoreline there “was fortified by rocks,” he emailed, and it was low tide when he saw “a painting that was resting on the rocks but being rocked by the waves. ... It was cluttered with seaweed and sand along the frame. I pulled it out and set it in the sun to dry.”
He tried to locate Bradford at the time but was unsuccessful. So he took the work off the stretcher bars, rolled it up and stored it in a locker in Kansas. Five years went by, and then Bell made another stab at finding the painter. This time he was successful.
“It seems amazing,” emails Bradford, “that this has happened just as my new work is about to be transported for my next show at the gallery. This time in a rented enclosed van.”
Recommended by DeWitt Cheng:
Alex Couwenberg has chosen the title “Chevrons,” referring to the V- or caret-shaped motif in heraldry that most of us associate with the Chevron gasoline logo, with its nestling red and blue V shapes; a sergeant’s stripes, with three gold carets; or Kenneth Noland’s “Chevron” series of hard-edged abstract paintings made in the early 1960s.
But while Couwenberg is influenced by crisply delineated shapes faultlessly rendered, these works adopt the spatial ambiguity of cubism, with abstract forms suggesting overlapping architectural plans or machine parts in a temporary balance. Couwenberg: “The additive and reductive processes of my paintings reveal compositions of densely layered forms and patterns that weave in and out of each other, suggesting space, time, and the moment.” While Noland’s “Chevron” paintings propounded an aesthetic of radical purity, Couwenberg’s works, despite their Southern California design clarity (related to automobile and surfing culture), reflect the current cultural moment of diversity and uncertainty.
His use of alternating black and white stripes suggest modernist architecture, herringbone fabric and super graphics. We think, too, of shadow patterns used to cinematic effect in film noir, which was so often set in the City of the Angels. Mysteriously beautiful forms, with their multiple associations, seem to float in shallow space, set off by airbrushed shadows and halations. Ruler-straight lines and compass-perfect curves —sometimes flat, but sometimes rendered in low-relief gel-heavy acrylic that looks like collaged cardboard, wood or plexiglas — are contrasted with irregularities. Such broken forms and brief passages of impasto emerge from the flat, otherwise pure picture plane. Couwenberg’s titles, such as “Bombardier,” “Mai Tai” and “Pleasure Seeker,” convey an ironic 1960s vibe. His use of color, while lush, is modulated and shadowed. These icons are fascinating both for their complexity and contradiction.
Reviewed by Andy Brumer for Visual Art Source:
Ned Evans’ colorful and masterly executed acrylic and mixed-media geometric abstractions treat us to a painterly turbo-charge bouquet of color, texture, composition and feeling.
The artist uses multiple wood panels in these paintings, to which he affixes pre-cut geometrically shaped pieces of cloth, paper, plastics and other fabrics. All are seamlessly assembled. Evans textures many of these strips, squares and other rectangular materials with granulated sand-like additives (similarly to Tapies, Dubuffet, Braque and others). If many viewers will miss seeing the underlying cohesive element at work here in the midst of the constructivist Boogie Woogie movement and kaleidoscopic blur, they will certainly, if only subconsciously, feel it.
There’s also a studied color field tone poem feeling to Evans’ compositions that is counterbalanced by a jazz musician’s improvisational, supple and swift decision-making process. When integrated by the artist’s experienced eye and hand the combined gestalt of these elements, which meet the eye so simply yet represent a high order of visual organization, the paintings possess Schiller’s schein.
The gallery director’s office walls support a small group of Evans’s Cubistic sculptural reliefs titled “Keyholes.” Each consists of four blocks of thick foam painted with resin and encaustic oils. These frame more than encircle small, centrally positioned empty spaces, the “Keyholes,” and while feeling childlike and tender the pieces trigger the double entendre of piano keys. One can almost hear Thelonious Monk-like clunky iconic and ingenious solos emanating from them. Such serenading adds a welcome background accompaniment to the primary bodies of work in the main galleries.
Since its inception in 2004, The Hearts of San Francisco project has been dedicated to both raising money for the San Francisco Hospital Foundation and supporting local artists. They meld these interests by commissioning creatively rendered, large-scale hearts from Bay Area artists and selling them at auction. These decorative hearts are littered throughout the city and are also featured in private homes and businesses. It is an immense honor for an artist to be selected to create a Heart, and today we celebrate one of our own, Piero Spadaro, on his Heart, which he has cheekily dubbed, “Bae Area”. Congratulations Piero! His sculpture will be available for viewing at the San Francisco Hospital Foundation Heroes & Hearts luncheon at AT&T Park on February 15th.
Tracy Krumm, Taper (Anchor), crocheted and fabricated metal, found objects - 108 x 10 inches
Mathematics has been a profound source of inspiration for artists across time and cultures. In Seeing Math, contemporary artist, Tracy Krumm along with six others, address a number of mathematical concepts, including infinity, algorithms, geometry, and the fourth dimension.
Friday, November 10, 2017, 5–7 p.m., Remarks 5:30 p.m.
Flaten Art Museum, Center for Art and Dance
Runs from November 10, 2017 – January 15, 2018
The two artists whose pieces receive the most votes will move on to the finale at SCOPE Miami Beach for a chance to be named the Artisan Series grand prize winner.
Vote now through November 7, 2017 at: https://www.bombayartisan.com/