Katherine Bradford is known for her vibrant palette, faux-naïf style, and eccentric compositions. Often built up over months and sometimes years, the surfaces of Bradford’s paintings are textured, comprising multiple thin, semi-transparent coats of acrylic paint, with hints of pentimenti in the final compositions. Her recent works revisit several of her favored motifs, such as ships and swimmers—traditional and enduring subjects seen throughout art history. Bradford’s canvases, however, typically portray more ominous, and often improbable, atmospheres in comparison to the relative calm of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s ship paintings or Paul Cézanne’s portraits of bathers, for example. In her works, ocean liners collapse in the night sea, beachgoers and swimmers populate fearsome expanses such as ebbing waters and outer space, and sea monsters, as in Large Ocean Painting, 2016, rear their heads above a crowded ocean. Whether Bradford’s paintings depict swimmers in raging tides or figures illogically floating in the cosmos, her work suggests humanity humbled by the vastness of nature.
While simple in form, her ongoing series of nocturnal paintings exhibit a range of colors, such as orange, neon green, and pink-violet, that glow and illuminate the otherwise dark scenes. In Pond Swimmers, 2016, the only source of light is emanating from the swimmers’ orange-pink skin. Two figures in the work are set within a dense blue-purple pond, while one man in the foreground lies on a sliver of beach under the night sky. As with most of her paintings, the subjects in Pond Swimmers are pared down, fragmented, and faceless, which suggests the anonymous everyman. As the artist states, “I want to examine large themes that exist in any time or place—themes like isolation, community, play, or wonder. My paintings are full of awe for our place as small beings in an immense scheme of things. . . . My settings are universal and timeless and exist in the past as well as the future.”
Katherine Bradford was born in New York City and is currently based in Brooklyn. She received a BA from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and an MFA from the State University of New York at Purchase. Bradford has been included in important group exhibitions both nationally and internationally, at such venues as MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York; Yale School of Art, New Haven; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Her work is in several public collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum; Portland Museum of Art, Maine; Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts. FOCUS: Katherine Bradford is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Texas and features new and recent paintings.