new-york

Lisa Bradley

E.M. Donahue

To the casual observer, Lisa Bradley’s paintings may simply suggest spectacular optical effects achieved by way of a monochromatic painterly medium. The paintings—all nearly square and in various shades of blue—evoke the swirling tumbling forces of water and sky. They seem to derive their power to confound the eye from the abstract potential of photography: the maelstrom viewed through a camera obscura. But, in fact, the longer one spends with them, the more disorienting the paintings become. Or perhaps “disorienting” isn’t quite the word; all the blueness makes them oddly tranquil. To look at them is to feel as you do after turning a summersault: perfectly still, but at the same time full of spin.

In Sufism, spinning is viewed as a way to channel divinity; Abstract Expressionists attempted something similar in their handling of paint. Their depictions of motion—invoked by

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