Sunday, September 29, 2013

Katherine Bradford: Small Ships, at Steven Harvey Fine Art

Bradford’s art soothes the painter’s soul; the lusciously caked on layers of thickly lustrous pigment should satisfy any painterly palate.
At first glance her images might be considered crudely rendered, but their rough-hewn surfaces then morph into a kind of elastically concrete substance.  Hidden beneath crusty oceans of vivid chromatic intensity, lurks a sensitively conceived notion of nuance that inform those voluptuous swathes of luminous seascape. 

The artist’s obsession with ocean liners emphasizes a funky figure ground relationship, similar to the way Guston subverted cartoon references by jumbling up conventional picture plane semiotics. The artist’s playful instincts infuse her work in (or shall I say on) “Titanic on the Piano”. The impending disaster comes off as blackly comical; the toy ship sails blithely on towards an ice cube of an iceberg.


Bradford employs an effective conceit by stretching out the vertical mass of her painted ships. This distortion frees up an energetic thrust that invigorates compositional integrity, while shifting perception away from the clichéd reference of  “boat pictures”.  

However the work is freighted with a diffusely sentimental yearning; they can evoke blurry postcards from bygone eras, but remain contemporary without becoming saccharine. “Brooklyn (Arriving in the Harbor)” celebrates a cruise with corny looking text, but conveys a festive sincerity we can believe in. 

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