Katherine Bradford and Drawing for Sculpture: Swimmers and Gender Politics

by Paddy Johnson on January 22, 2016 Reviews

Katherine Bradford, "Low Tide at Mere Point", 2015, acrylic on canvas

Katherine Bradford, “Low Tide at Mere Point”, 2015, acrylic on canvas

With a snow storm threatening the weekend gallery goer routines of most New Yorkers, perhaps only the most intrepid will make out tomorrow and Sunday. But for those who haven’t yet seen today’s recommended shows—Katherine Bradford at CANADA and Drawing for Sculpture at Tiger Strikes Astroid (Bushwick) I have good news: both run through February 15th. You’ve got time.

And that’s a good thing, because pretty much any serious art lover in the city needs to see CANADA’s Katherine Bradford show, “Fear of Waves”. The exhibition is undoubtedly the strongest painting show I’ve seen in the last two years, showcasing a body of large virtuoso paintings focused on water and swimmers under a variety of bright skies, starry nights and even UFOs. Water envelops almost everyone.

The painting’s success, in part lies with an erie stillness within many of them, even when depicting action. “Leap from Mere Point” for example, pictures a bather mid-dive against the sky and heading into water. The figure seems frozen in time, as it it were a film still from an animated movie. Other times, the paintings seem full of action. “Two Divers in Surf” shows just that, a fog of white paint splatter surrounding the swimmers. I actually worried these fictional figures would hurt themselves.

The paintings themselves are masterful—a flurry of brushed layers and splatters so resolved Bradford creates the illusion of economical brushwork—but that’s only part of what makes them so accomplished. Walking through the show, it’s almost impossible not to gush over variation of light represented in these paintings. Between the twilight swimmers, the indoor swimmers, and the nighttime swimmers bathed in the light of a flying saucer, almost no type of light goes unexamined. In real life, a person might only have a handful of experiences that might match those depicted, so to see them assembled in one space seems all the more precious. Indeed, for that reason alone, the show’s worth checking out.

Installation view of Drawing For Sculpture at Tiger Strikes Asteroids. Photo: Paddy Johnson

Installation view of Drawing For Sculpture at Tiger Strikes Asteroids. Photo: Paddy Johnson

Variation is also the name of the game at Bushwick’s Tiger Strikes Asteroid. Curated by Courtney Puckett, “Drawing for Sculpture” describes the show succinctly; it’s show of drawings by more than 40 sculptors, complete with a zine that includes images of artist studios and art work.

Rather than endlessly arrange a bunch of work that’s been assembled for a simple purpose, Puckett organizes the show alphabetically. She allocates a square space to each on the wall, and hangs the work accordingly. The checklist is a virtual map of the show. (It could use some help: I have over ten pictures of the exhibition plus the checklist and still can’t match most names to art works.)

Small studies and vaguely three dimensional works define the show, with close inspection paying off in almost all instances. Virginia Lee Montgomery’s comics use pun to good effect; hilariously the words “Human Resources” circles a logo of humans in test tubes. Nearby two spirals made of putty by Megan Pahmier succeed for its simple and elegant shape. Meanwhile, there are also inclusions of artists whose drawings have a much more direct relationship with sculpture. Esperanza Mayobre, for example, presents renderings for her architecturally-based work. The thin precise lines of the drawing make them a pleasure to look at.

With that much variation, there’s a little something for everyone in the show. It’s worth noting, though, that there are exhibition perimeters beyond just looking at drawings by sculptors. The show boasts all female roster. No fuss or mention of this is made in the press release, a curatorial decision I can only assume deliberate. Over the last few years I’ve heard a lot of talk about how there’s more power in all female exhibitions that don’t announce themselves—the idea here being that such groups self-marginalize because they speak only to those already within that demographic.

There’s a lot of merit to the argument, but I’ve never been able to fully embrace it. If the purpose of a show is to highlight the work of women, it’s hard to describe the willful silencing of that goal as wholly empowering. Perhaps I’m being overly naive, but I’d like to believe most audiences could handle a little gender politics, particularly when assembled under such an accessible theme.

Participating artists include: Alice Adams, Margery Amdur, Rachel Beach, Charlotte Becket, Sarah Bednarek, Louise Bourgeois, Amy Brener, Amanda Browder, Nicole Cherubini, Lauren Clay, Diana Cooper, Petah Coyne, Joy Curtis, Kate Starbuck Elliot, Stacy Fisher, Martha Friedman, Rachel Higgins, Kristen Jensen, Katy Krantz, Denise Kupferschmidt, Emily Noelle Lambert, Katerina Lanfranco, Fabienne Lasserre, Elisa Lendvay, Jill Levine, Esperanza Mayobre, Shari Mendelson, Virginia Lee Montgomery, Megan Pahmier, Claudia Peña Salinas, Sheila Pepe, Meridith Pingree, Courtney Puckett, Carolyn Salas, Gabriela Salazar, Lisa Schilling, Judith Scott, Michelle Segre, Shinique Smith, Courtney Tramposh, and Eileen Weitzman.

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