Interview with Katherine Bradford

Artist Katherine Bradford likes acrylic paint. As a material, acrylic is filled with wonder for its contradictions. Its water-soluble chemistry allows for the kind of dreamy washes that color fields and abstractions often rely on, while its water-resistant setting state is anchored and dependable. Bradford’s solo exhibition Divers and Dreamers, currently on view at Adams and Ollman, is up to the comparison of being dually quixotic and grounded. Bradford revels in the illustration of heroes, lovers, introverts, and the otherworldly. The following interview asks the artist to consider the figures she paints as harbingers of visual poetry and a return to the idealism behind painting past.

Katherine Bradford. Water Nurses, 2016; acrylic on canvas. Courtesy the artist and Adams and Ollman. Photo: Christine Taylor

Katherine Bradford. Water Nurses, 2016; acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the Artist and Adams and Ollman. Photo: Christine Taylor.

Ashley Stull Meyers: The juxtapositions you create in your paintings are often lyrical, poetic ones. With what metaphorical value do you view water in relationship with the acts of “diving” and “dreaming”?

Katherine Bradford: “Diving” introduces the idea that the viewer will see in this group of paintings a lot of people in bathing suits ready to immerse themselves in water. “Dreaming” is a word that pairs nicely in sound with “diving” and introduces the notion that the tone and setting for the swimmers may be invented and fantastical.

Water and paint are wonderfully liquid and ripe for experiment. Both can be transparent and hold onto glints of another color. For the past year I’ve used only acrylic paint because I love the florescent colors and the watery texture. Every time my brush hits the surface of the canvas I seem to get a different stroke, and many of them recall waves or rivulets or splashes of water, but the real value is that water serves as a metaphor for whatever we’re floating on, and jumping into, and traveling through.

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Underrepresentation

Help Desk is where I answer your queries about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, selling–or any other activity related to contemporary art. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I’m an artist with a gallery and I’m stuck in their back room. I’ve been with them a long time. My stuff has a challenging, abstract, unique style, and they pay their rent selling fairly accessible art. I’ve received press and write-ups, but no collectors. How do I motivate them to show and sell my work? I’ve been with them a long time. I’ve tried talking with them about it. They’ve said they’d show my work at fairs and haven’t. I don’t feel they’re really interested in making an effort, as they just push what sells and keep me hanging on… (bad love song here). They do put my work in annual group shows, but that’s about it. How can I get my artwork shown and sold? I’ve been hustling and struggling a long time, and I’m kind of over it. Why shouldn’t I just quit the gallery racket, just make work and not show? It’s not selling anyway.

Jake & Dinos Chapman. Zygotic acceleration, Biogenetic de-sublimated libidinal model (enlarged x 1000) [1995]; Fiberglass; 150 x 180 x 140 cm.

Jake & Dinos Chapman. Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic De-Sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged x 1000), 1995; fiberglass; 150 x 180 x 140 cm.

Do you enjoy barking? Do you like wrong trees? Because you appear to be wasting your time and energy on a problem that is never going to be resolved to your satisfaction. Let’s review the matter: This gallery sells “accessible” work, and they’ve been open a long time, so we can extrapolate that they are good at finding collectors who prefer this kind of art. But your work is challenging. They don’t give you shows because you don’t make work that will sell to the collectors they’ve already cultivated. So what you want is for them to change their methods and find an entirely new collector base; that’s some serious magical thinking, and now you’re angry that they won’t do it. Here comes the tough love: You are engaging in a very common cognitive distortion known as blaming. The fact is, they don’t keep you hanging on, you keep you hanging on.

Now before your knickers get twisted, let me say that I think your gallery is equally culpable. This is a two-way problem: They shouldn’t have taken you on if they suspected they couldn’t give you shows or sell your work, and you shouldn’t have agreed to join the gallery if you knew your work didn’t fit with their program. Additionally, they shouldn’t be saying that they’ll take your work to fairs if they won’t—it’s disrespectful and injurious to string someone along. But I’m willing to bet that you don’t have a contract that spells out your mutual obligations, that you’ve never asked them for one, that your conversations with the gallery director about this have been few and far between, and that forthright communication is perhaps not the strong suit of anyone involved.

How do I infer all of this? Because the only strategy you cite as viable is to “just quit the gallery racket” and huff back to your studio for a good sulk. Yet we both know that martyrdom is not going to make you happy; what you really want is to find a gallery that’s right for your work. You say that you’ve been “hustling and struggling” a long time, and I have no doubt that you’ve spent a lot of time and money refining your practice, but remember that it takes the same amount of energy to run a mile in a circle as it does a mile in the direction you want to go. If you’ve put significant time into building your career, the fact that you’re not satisfied may mean that you haven’t acted strategically.

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Shotgun Reviews

F.T.P: For the People at Galería de la Raza

 Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Ángel Rafael Vázquez-Concepción reviews F.T.P: For the People at Galería de la Raza in San Francisco.


Fanny Aishaa. Elsipogtog, 2003; print based on original oil painting; 36 x 48 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Galería de la Raza, San Francisco. Photo: Henry Pacheco.


At Galería de la Raza in the Mission District is F.T.P: For the People, inspired by civil rights activist Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.”[1] The exhibition showcases the work of over a dozen visual artists from the Bay Area and beyond, including painting, photography, printmaking, and installation.

Lorde states that action leading to legitimate social change can never emerge out of the normativity that reinforces a status quo where social and racial inequality are rife—to promote social change, one must empower the colored female, transgender, and queer otherness that would otherwise be cast out and rejected. F.T.P. brilliantly aligns itself with Lorde’s central idea. Especially at stake right now is imagining a future where prejudice and police brutality will cease to be tolerable.

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Interview with Carlos Motta

Today from our friends at BOMB Magazine, we bring you an interview with artist Carlos Motta. Author Cat Tyc writes, “Motta’s research-based practice is constituted by discursive spaces, presented in a variety of different spatial forms, which create—in his own words—’counter-narratives that recognize suppressed histories, communities, and identities.'” This article was originally published May 6, 2016.

Carlos Motta. Patriots, Citizens, Lovers..., 2015; installation view.  PinchukArtCentre, Kiev. Courtesy of Instituto de Visión, Bogotá, Mor Charpentier Galerie, Paris, and Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon.

Carlos Motta. Patriots, Citizens, Lovers…, 2015; installation view. PinchukArtCentre, Kiev. Courtesy of Instituto de Visión, Bogotá, Mor Charpentier Galerie, Paris, and Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon.

Cat Tyc: At your artist talk at Pratt Institute, you spoke of your desire to “puncture the institution” with some of your works. You were referring to your experiences negotiating the relationship between cultural institutions and the marginal perspectives of sexual and gender politics that are often the focus of your projects—most specifically We Who Feel Differently(2012) and Gender Talents (2015). I interpret this not as a confrontation for confrontation’s sake but more as an insistence to counter a mainstream narrative that assumes that the struggles of LGBTI communities have lessened since the legalization of gay marriage. Maybe this is too specific an example to aptly consider the wide range of topics addressed in your work. Really, I’m most curious to know where your interest and insistence in constructing queer counter-narratives comes from?

Carlos Motta: There are two parts to your question that I would like to address: first, the experience of strategically presenting a socially-engaged project in an art institutional context, in order to profit from an institution’s visibility and to shed light onto a social issue that is generally neglected by other channels. Gender Talents is an archive of video portraits with trans and intersex activists in four countries: Colombia, Guatemala, India, and the United States. The motivation for the project was to construct an online platform and a discursive space to show the ways in which grass-roots gender identity activism and forms of self-determination are being established among international trans communities. In Guatemala, I worked closely with REDMMUTRANS, a young organization run by and for trans sex workers who are interested in self-empowering trans women of different class, ethnic, and racial backgrounds to defend themselves from systemic abuse. They have minimal infrastructure or financial support and have faced huge obstacles to self-organize.

Read the full article here.



Alina Szapocznikow: Human Landscape(s) at Galerie Loevenbruck

Owing to the success of her figurative work as well as her 2012 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow is widely recognized for her uncanny mixed-media sculptures that incorporate cast body parts with everyday objects. Often overlooked, however, are her drawings of abstracted figures—erotic, restless, and vulnerable—though they are a central part of her practice. Human Landscape(s) at Loevenbruck in Paris presents a small but welcome corrective.

Alina Szapocznikow. Untitled, 1970-1971; Ink on laid paper; 24 13/16 x 18 7/8 in. Courtesy The Estate of Alina Szapocznikow / Piotr Stanislawski / Galerie Loevenbruck, Paris © ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Fabrice Gousset.

Alina Szapocznikow. Untitled, 1970-1971; ink on laid paper; 24 13/16 x 18 7/8 in. Courtesy of the Estate of Alina Szapocznikow/Piotr Stanislawski/Galerie Loevenbruck, Paris. © ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Fabrice Gousset.

Fifteen drawings in ink, felt-tip pen, and watercolor on paper are arranged in five groups of three, with each group emphasizing a subtly different aspect of her style. Viewers first encounter a set of drawings in fine black ink. Body parts such as a finger or a breast are discernible, but on the whole, the aggregated contours of each drawing are predominantly suggestive rather than pictorial. Szapocznikow’s early life was shaped by the trauma of her imprisonment in two Jewish ghettoes and three Nazi concentration camps. Yet nearly thirty years after the war, her depictions are delicate, almost tender; the line work is more like a lover’s light touch than a mark of agitation, and the verticality of these images creates an upward, lifting movement.

In contrast, the figures in the second set of drawings are oriented horizontally, and definable imagery is less elusive. The pen lines of Paysage Humain [Human Landscape] (1971) stretch across the page, giving the impression of being pulled from both left and right. In the central foreground, in front of rolling hills, a shapely mound suggests a pregnant woman; curved lines and shading indicate the roundness of her swollen belly. But where a face might be, there is only a skull. Szapocznikow’s marks are energetic, established in melancholic black and dark purple. Birth and death are proximal to one another, and imminent.

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Alec Soth: Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree at Colby College Museum of Art

Alec Soth’s video, Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree, concludes with an excerpt from the Allen Ginsberg poem “A Supermarket in California.”

   What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.

   In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! [1]

Alec Soth. Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree, 2012 (video still); single-channel video; 6:23. Courtesy of the Artist.

Alec Soth. Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree, 2012 (video still); single-channel video; 6:23. Courtesy of the Artist.

Ginsberg’s verse is an unsurprising endnote to Soth’s video, a nearly seven-minute-long work composed of dozens of fixed camera shots, lingering on sites throughout Minneapolis in the fading light of a summer evening. The locations documented are so mundane they could be from any middle-American town: a freeway overpass, a gas station, a commercial parking lot, a strip mall, the pavement outside a fast-food restaurant. A moonlit “neon fruit supermarket” is very much at home amid this imagery. But beyond the similarities in the settings conjured, Ginsberg’s quote captures a dynamic at the heart of Soth’s project: acknowledging the profound influence of an artistic predecessor (Whitman) while making art very much about one’s time, art that describes a uniquely contemporary experience. Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree was created as an homage to one of Soth’s greatest influences, the photographer Robert Adams and his 1985 publication, Summer Nights. Adams’ revered photo book documented his late-night walks in Colorado, focusing on spaces where artificial illumination bled into darkness. Summer Nights first motivated a young Soth to shoot in the evening.

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New Orleans

Adam Pendleton: Becoming Imperceptible at Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans

Curated by Dr. Andrea Andersson, Adam Pendleton: Becoming Imperceptible is the most extensive museum presentation of the artist’s work to date—a significant triumph for a cultural institution located in New Orleans, one of the most racially and politically fraught cities in the southern United States. While the exhibition’s rich display resonates with the variety of material and conceptual strategies at work in Pendleton’s oeuvre, it is the artist’s subversive modes of intervention into historical discourses of vanguard art and politics that lend weight to the complexities of his practice.

Adam Pendleton. Installation Shot of Yes, But. 2008. Acrylic paint on wall. Dimensions variable. Image courtesy of the artist and the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans.

Adam Pendleton. Yes, But, 2008; acrylic paint on wall; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and the Contemporary Art Center of New Orleans.

The immediate impact of Pendleton’s engagement with the architectural space of the institution invites visitors to understand his engagement with site as a form of occupation. The vertical space of each gallery is dramatically papered with the artist’s stark black-and-white materials—collages, posters, paintings, silkscreens, and acrylic texts swarm the walls, covering the visual field with appropriated and fragmented photographic materials that shout and stutter across three dimensions.[1] Viewers are continuously met with a cacophony of printed matter and textual fragments that tautologically enact Pendleton’s desire for hierarchies of aesthetic representation, production, and historical origins to cross-reference, and subsequently, re-signify.

This mode is powerfully introduced at the start of the exhibition with Yes, But (2008), a wall painting of quotes appropriated from the legendary French New Wave film director Jean-Luc Godard in the 2002 film The Future(s) of Film. Oscillating somewhere between portraiture, poetry, and fragmented non sequitur, Pendleton covers the wall with appropriated text—a gesture that nods to the French auteur’s critique of style and his embrace of the productive possibilities inherent in the accumulation of found content. Pendleton’s destabilization of authorship is a strategy that follows the structures and dynamic history of the avant-garde in the 20th century, and forms the conceptual foundation for a practice that expands from a dissolution between material and process.

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