Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ESSAY: On Bradley Fox's Paintings, Part 1

On Bradley Fox’s paintings:


By Sam Thurston

I met Bradley a little at a time because he was in the area. He came to a show I had in Newport in 2006. He worked at the Painted Caravan Gallery in Johnson, where he showed my work, which connected him to me as it connected him to a lot of others. I would stop by and talk – there was a nice sunny studio room attached to the gallery. Perhaps that is one reason he stopped doing still lives, when he no longer had a good studio, since that gallery folded after two years. Then he worked at Ebenezer's Bookshop in Johnson where he continued to show art. He also organized painting shows for artists at the Winding Brook Bistro and other places. He was always finding places for people to show. He was very social. I was not his best friend but after he died I felt I owed him something and also I wanted the discipline of writing to see his art more clearly. -- Sam Thurston


The instant someone dies your perspective on that person changes and with me the instant Bradley died my perspective on his painting also changed and I wanted to understand his paintings better and so compiled the following.

Bradly Fox was born in 1959 in Newport, Vermont and died in 2010 in Johnson. After High School in Newport he lived in Boston and the Boston area for 9 years (attending art school during this time), New Orleans for 6 years and New York City for 8 years. He took residencies at the Vermont Studio Center starting in 2003. He moved to Vermont in 2005 to tend to his ill father. His father, who had been a foreman of the shipping department of Butterfield Tool and Die, died in December 2006. From 2007 on Bradley lived in Johnson.

12 x 16", Sunday in the Park, 2002

The few paintings I have identified known to be before 2000 are landscapes from life. This collage dated 2002, Sunday in the Park, may mark a new direction for him, away from the straight landscape. Although it is still a landscape, it is also his subjective world, one you can walk into.

16 x 69"

This undated and untitled painting was probably done while he was still in NYC. He rejects the idea of painting as something abstract or academic, something that would not be a world you walk through. Newport is a conservative town and you suspect Bradley had trouble coming of age there in the 70’s.

24 x 24" Planning a Vacation, 2005

“My paintings are telling stories,” he wrote. Many of his paintings of this period show a “playful, childlike humor juxtaposed over something darker and more sinister” as a long time friend put it.

25 x 54", no date, untitled

In ‘telling his stories’ we are shown his childhood regressions - his trolls and such - and these can be off-putting, but he is attempting what is so difficult for artists - to paint the world they really live in, not the seen-before stereotype, the gray watered down classical ideal or the handed-down abstract formula.

24 x 72"

In this undated, untitled still life (but most likely done when he had a nice studio to work in while he helped run The Painted Caravan gallery in 2006 and 2007) he changes from saturated color to using tones. He went right back to his strong, expressive color, though. His color with its near discordant harmonies is important to his expression. One might liken it to the music of Stravinsky or Alban Berg.

Part 2 of Sam Thurston's essay, covering Fox's landscape painting, will be posted in the next few days.

NOTE: Works by Bradley Fox are still on view in Johnson at the Vermont Studio Center's Gallery II (across the street from the Red Mill Gallery), through the end of November. There are also some of Fox's pieces indefinitely at Ebeneezer's Bookshop on Main Street.
-- Ed.