13th April 2017 // James Nicholls
THE SECOND COMING is the much anticipated second London solo exhibition from Bradley Theodore, the street artist turned art star who deals in a colour-soaked exploration of the human condition with a verve that has set the art world on fire. His 2016 sell-out show at Maddox Gallery was a major success and now Theodore returns to the UK with a vibrant and evocative new series of works featuring groundbreaking virtual reality creations, previously unseen sculpture and large scale paintings alongside the artist’s famed pop pieces.
Developing his style on the streets of New York, Theodore’s work focuses heavily on the motif of the human skull, and he applies beguilingly vivid Dia de Los Muertos style masks to some of the most recognisable contemporary icons from the worlds of fashion and celebrity culture, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Anna Wintour, David Bowie, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Kate Moss. In these renditions he produces works that invite the viewer to reflect upon fleeting fame and mortality in a way that is strangely enriching in mood, rather than morbid.
“I grew up in a very psychotic neighbourhood,” comments Theodore. “I was around death all the time–being involved in skateboarding and the alternative street kid world, it wasn’t something you were afraid of, it was something you embraced. When I see death, I see life, and I feel that death, as a symbol, is just black. I paint on black because it feels like going into the abyss and bringing out life, colour and emotion.”
Pop culture icons provide much of the material for Theodore's vibrant portraits. His celebrity fans include Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, Gigi Hadid, Terry Richardson and Kendall Jenner. Vogue’s influential Suzy Menkes calls him ‘Banksy meets Basquiat’ and GQ has featured the stylish Theodore as one of their ‘Best Dressed’. His painting of fashion icon Diana Vreeland, famously stolen from the lobby of a Manhattan hotel last year, will also be part of the London exhibition.
There is something about the iconic use of colour, repeat skull motifs and exploration of the skeletal form which makes Theodore’s work instantly recognizable, whether adorning clothing at New York Fashion Week, outdoor murals in Manhattan and Hong Kong, or at the US Open, where last year Theodore was their official artist. A series of large-scale skull sculptures will make their debut at the London show and will be accompanied by bold, large-scale painting including Theodore’s interpretation of The Last Supper.
Currently virtual reality artist in residence for Google, Theodore’s upcoming London exhibition promises to go beyond the realms of his signature skull motif canvases to incorporate elements of VR in today’s digital age, with the lower level of Maddox Gallery being dedicated to a new series of Theodore’s latest virtual reality incarnations as well as his coveted pop works on paper.
A VIP Private View, generously sponsored by The Arts Club, Mayfair, will be held at Maddox Gallery on 19th April, attended by Bradley Theodore and many of his high profile fans and collectors. The artist will be personally showcasing some of the pioneering new work from his VR residency with Google for the first time.