Los Angeles

Joseph C. Bradley

Museum of Art, Santa Barbara

Bradley, a longtime Santa Barbara artist, is enjoying his second one-man show in the museum. A graduate of the Cate School and Harvard University, his work is as conservative as those two institutions, and this is not bad, at least not in his case. He does not pick recognizable shapes from a melange of accidental splatter, nor break them down after setting them in place. He sees a picture in a barn, or the shambles of a silo, and he paints it. Bradley’s art, as a matter of fact, is a continuation of the 19th century tradition, but before dismissing it as unstylish and anachronistic, remember Edward Hooper, Stanley Spencer, Christian Bernard, and so on. One is reminded pleasantly of Hooper in his pictures, for like the American master, Bradley reflects the visible with veils indicating there is more. His pictures are unpeopled, possessed by an enormous stillness that is like the beat in music when there is no audible sound. Corrugated Barn, Broken Fence and Barn are the strongest works on view, although a few, like Green Chair, are contrived and affected. Realism—magic, social, socialistic and what-have-you?—changes under the influence of the serious artists. Bradley’s contribution is slim as an innovator, but he does very well holding his own.

Larry Rottersman