Lot 412
  • 412

Joe Bradley

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Joe Bradley
  • Camel
  • oil on sewn canvases
  • 104 by 128 in. 264.2 by 325.1 cm.
  • Executed in 2013.


Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner


New York, Gavin Brown's enterprise, Lotus Beaters, May - June 2013
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Joe Bradley, June 2017 - October 2017, pl. 22, pp. 86 - 87, illustrated in color


This work is in very good condition overall. There is light wear along the edges and at the corners of the canvas. The surface texture, wear, scattered surface accretions and faint canvas creases are all inherent to the artist’s working method. There is a soft undulation throughout the canvas. This work was not examined under Ultraviolet light inspection. Framed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Painted in 2013, Joe Bradley’s monumentally scaled Camel exemplifies the artist’s ambitious approach to painting. In this seminal work, Bradley employs his signature use of swathes of thickly applied oil paint, contrasting thin traces of imprinted pigment with lavish and broad strokes. Drawing from Abstract Expressionists and important early influences such as Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston, as well as Jean—Michel Basquiat, it is clear how Bradley has earned the moniker of a “painter’s painter.” Camel was most recently included in the mid-career retrospective at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which proved the ideal context in which to view his work alongside the greatest painters of the 20th century including de Kooning and Cy Twombly. Bradley’s work is distinguished by a truly nuanced appreciation and understanding of surface and color, boldly pushing the bounds of where generations of painters left off decades before; “I think in painting, having such a long history, one can pick up a thread that’s fifty or sixty years old, but it doesn’t feel like an antique idea” (Janne Siren in Exh. Cat., Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Joe Bradley, 2017, p. 7).

Bradley emerged onto the broader art scene with his “modular paintings” shown in the 2008 Whitney Biennial to great critical acclaim. A direct affront to minimalism, formally conjuring the shaped canvases and monochromatic works of Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella, Bradley arranges casually rendered monochromatic canvases to recall anthropomorphic forms of larger than life android figures. This body of work alludes to both Modernist geometric constructions and the abstracted human form, a sculptural concept that is further reconciled on a painterly level. Radiating serious complexity and conceptual rigor while simultaneously underlined by humor, Bradley’s artistic practice is as much informed by the art historical debate between form and content as it is by quotidian experience.

As much admired for his breakthroughs in painting, Bradley also very seamlessly moves between greatly variegated bodies of work that each very distinctly invigorate new statements in painting. The Schmagoo paintings “elevated drawing to the status of painting. Their debut was the most important moment in Bradley’s career to date…because they laid the conceptual groundwork for the abstract paintings he continues to produce today” (ibid. p. 18). Incorporating thin lines and stick figure renderings of trace references of signs and symbols from popular culture, the Schmagoos are executed with a childlike simplicity but on a monumental scale typically reserved for painting. He would begin to develop more colorful and painterly styles of working within these very stringent boundaries. Though mostly abstract, Camel, does contain figurative motifs in the form of a very clearly outlined brown star at the upper right that appears, in contrast to the densely layered and sculptural surface of the rest of the painting, flattened and solid in its rendering. 

Executed on the studio floor, his large abstracts convey the physicality of action painting without the fluidity of his Abstract expressionist predecessors. With footprints and other trace remnants of the studio encased upon the surface, his large abstracts become an investigation in the process of painting itself. Drawing from the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, large areas of color are juxtaposed with scrawling, drawn elements. Unlike Jackson Pollock, who was known for whipping out finished paintings in a matter of hours, Bradley describes his method as thoughtful and laborious. While he does not always begin a painting with a particular composition in mind, each stroke is carefully considered and placed. The underlying impetus for the painting is not emotive, but intellectual. Nick Stillman writes, “Whether motioning toward the sublime or the base, Bradley’s work is always formally elegant” (Nick Stillman, “Joe Bradley,” Art Forum, January 2009). Color also becomes a predominant narrative in the execution of his large scale abstracts. Incorporating bold, primary colors alongside neutral earth tones, Bradley is the master of pulsating, rich surfaces that have firmly ensconced him within the pantheon of some of the greatest painters of his generation. Kim Conaty writes that “Compelled by open-ended situations rather than polemical statements, he has learned to paint through history, and in the process, has made his own distinct contributions to it” (Janne Siren in Exh. Cat., Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Joe Bradley, 2017, p. 51).