In paintings tempered by humor, David Bradley (Minnesota Chippewa) portrays human conditions and personal relationships that would be too controversial in another form.” The dry, highly observant, personal humor in his narrative paintings bridges the gap between the cartoon and fine art tradition, giving them an immediate, visceral impact. With obvious delight and deceptively gentle social satire, Bradley skewers offending persons, stereotypes, and ideologies. He can be cutting and ruthless in his depictions of tragic, heartrending histories significant to him, and yet attain a gentle, almost reverent, tone in his depictions of landscape, family, and friends.
A deep connection with the artistic process unifies Bradley’s narrative and abstract paintings, multimedia works, and sculptures. His all-over attention to the surface, in which each area of the composition is given equal attention and significance, resists focal points, inviting viewers to wander the canvas from top to bottom following lines, shapes, colors, and concepts. His use of strong colors, patterned surfaces, generalized light, absence of expressive brushwork, and an overall flatness and linearity, enhance the illusory aspect, which gives precedence to the idea.
Significant works of art reveal complexity as we engage with them over time. Intentionally, Bradley constructs seemingly chaotic narratives that combine the unlikely with the absurd, leaving us to ponder how all the elements are related, define each other, and are harmonious. For each viewer understanding resides in personal, social, and cultural histories as well as a willingness to question closely held assumptions.
This exhibition has been organized by the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe, NM and circulated through GuestCurator Traveling Exhibitions.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, the companion publication, Indian Country: The Art of David Bradley, explores Bradley's ironic, vivid, vibrant paintings, which are saturated with the artist's powerful and evocative depictions of the Indian experience and perspective. Bradley's paintings interweave historical and political truths, social and personal narrative, and cultural critique. Native people take center stage in world art, challenging embedded assumptions, reconsidering history and deconstructing its icons. A post-modern trickster, Bradley redirects the gaze of American life from an Indian point of view--an outsider observing the world with paradox, incongruity, fantasy, and humor. For the past three decades, Bradley has been a recognized voice from Indian Country, exploring and confronting through his art questions of identity, self-determination, and self-portrait, and bringing to the surface issues about which he is passionate.