The New Social Environment#129

Joe Zucker & Joe Bradley with Phong H. Bui


1 p.m. Eastern / 10 a.m. Pacific

Contemporary painters Joe Zucker and Joe Bradley from the Elaine de Kooning Housewill be in conversation with Phong H. Bui, Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail. We will close with a poetry reading by Jeremy Hoevenaar.

In this talk

Joe Zucker

A photograph of Joe Zucker by Katherine McMahon
Photograph by Katherine McMahon

Joe Zucker (b. 1941, Chicago, Illinois, based in East Hampton, New York) has consistently been one of America’s most innovative artists. From the Seventies, Zucker experimented with what has become his signature technique: gluing painted cotton balls to canvas in a gridded arrangement. Resulting in a highly textured surface reminiscent of mosaic, this technique radically transforms the surface of the canvas and challenges the “flatness.” His imagery most often relates in some way to the materials and processes, for example the series’ with cotton plantation imagery executed in cotton balls rolled in paint. Throughout his extensive career, Zucker has exhibited alongside artists such as Agnes Martin and Brice Marden at the pioneering Bykert Gallery in the 1960s, and later with dealer Holly Solomon, who was well known for her support of new and experimental mediums.

Zucker’s work is in extensive public collections including: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Tel Aviv Museum, Israel, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and many others.

Joe Bradley

Photograph of Joe Bradley by Sebastian Kim
Photograph by Sebastian Kim

In his paintings, drawings, sculptures, and mixed-media works, Joe Bradley has produced a visual language that oscillates freely between personal and art historical references. Constantly reinventing himself, he cycles through some of the most iconic modes of abstraction, investigating Minimalist questions of color and form, tapping into the spontaneous gesture of Abstract Expressionism, and creating cryptic signs and symbols in ingenious, lively drawings.

Bradley earned his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1999 and had his first gallery show in New York in 2003. Just three years later he had his first solo exhibition at MoMA PS1, which included boldly painted monochromatic canvases arranged in geometric formations. These modular paintings investigate the ways that colors exist in relation to each other and to negative space, while subtly evoking architectural structures and human or robotic figures. In recent works Bradley paints fragments of unprimed canvas on the floor, collecting studio debris in swaths of color. Imbuing abstraction with a tactile immediacy, he applies the oil paint in thick layers to create captivating, tessellated compositions.

In his drawing practice Bradley uses such unorthodox materials as cardboard scraps, loose paper, and even sticky notes. While artistic precedents appear to be among his works’ influences and inspirations, they never settle into certainty. In many ways Bradley holds a mirror up to the art world itself, finding humor in the ever-shifting trends and traditions of recent art history. One aspect of his practice that remains constant is his emphasis on process: the intuitive motions of the artist’s hand, as well as the effects of material, memory, and environment. For his Schmagoo Paintings (2008), Bradley drew invented symbols and doodles with grease pencil on raw canvas, presenting lighthearted subject matter with a direct, gestural confidence. Though vaguely familiar—recalling children’s drawings, comic book sketches, cave paintings, and ideograms—the images are devoid of specific meaning, exploring the very implications of the creative act.

Phong H. Bui

Photo of Phong Bui taken by Nicola Delorme
Photo by Nicola Delorme
Phong H. Bui is an artist, writer, independent curator, Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail, the River Rail, Rail Editions, and Rail Curatorial Projects. From 2007 to 2010 he served as Curatorial Advisor at MoMA PS1. His recent projects include Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, an ongoing curatorial project that was exhibited in 2019 as an official Collateral Event of the Venice Biennale and at Colby Museum in Waterville, Maine. He is a trustee of Studio in a School, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Anthology Film Archives, the Third Rail, the Miami Rail, Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, Second Shift Studio Space of Saint Paul, AICA (2007-2020), and is co-founder of the Monira Foundation, a non-profit which aims to curate ongoing exhibitions and public programming at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City and beyond. Forthcoming projects include the Detroit Rail, the first U.S. retrospective of Jonas Mekas, and Occupy Industry City: Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy, Year 3.

The Rail has a tradition of ending our conversations with a poetry reading, and we’re fortunate to have reading.

Jeremy Hoevenaar is the author of Cold Mountain Mirror Displacement (American Books), Our Insolvency (Resolving Host), and Insolvency, Insolvency! (Ugly Duckling Presse) and his writing has appeared in 6x6, The Recluse, The Believer, Vestiges, the Brooklyn Rail, and others.

❤️ 🌈 We'd like to thank the The Terra Foundation for American Art for making these daily conversations possible, and for their support of our growing archive.