For many professions, working remotely has become the norm. Many former New York City residents now reside on the East End, while working their full-time city jobs from afar. New York artist Joe Bradley is taking this concept to the extreme, managing his upcoming exhibition at the Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Zurich, Switzerland from Elaine de Kooning House in East Hampton.
Fleeing the city in March, Bradley and his family moved to their Amagansett home, separating him from his NYC studio with a ticking clock over his head—he had to finish his exhibition paintings before the summer pickup date. Having taken residence at Elaine de Kooning House in the summer of 2012, he called owner Chris Byrne to ask if the studio might be available to him once more. “The place was empty; I lucked out,” Bradley says. “Having some history there and having worked there almost 10 years ago, it was easy to hit the ground running. I know the studio, and I know the space.”
Despite being familiar with the studio, the circumstances were quite different this time around. In 2012, Bradley and his family moved into the house and lived on the property for the summer; now he simply uses the studio as his workspace. “I think in 2012 I had just finished up a big show, so there was no real agenda—it was just a nice summer. I worked in the studio, but I didn’t have any real goals,” he recalls. “This time around, I had a deadline, which has since come and gone.” His finished pieces were picked up in mid-August and sent to Zurich, leaving behind a few paintings that didn’t get resolved in time for the exhibition. Bradley plans to complete these during his remaining time in the studio, working there at least through mid-September. “I’ll stick around as long as they’ll have me,” he says. “I really like being there!”
With travel to Europe not in the cards anytime soon, Bradley is managing the next phase of the exhibition opening virtually, directing the hanging of his paintings over Zoom. “I love hanging a show—I love hanging my own work, and it feels very much like I’m pretty hands-on about it,” he says. “I like to be there and feel the space and make decisions on the spot, so it’ll be strange, but it’s a strange year we’re dealing with.” The exhibition, originally scheduled to run September 12 through October 31, has been extended to run through the end of the year, and Bradley is holding on to the hope that he’ll get to see it before it closes. “If Europe decides to allow us American piggies to come in, I’ll go over and visit the show, at least.”
Though the pandemic has certainly had an impact on Bradley’s life, as it has to most others in the world, his work has been largely unaffected as of yet. “It’s too soon to tell. I think that everything that happens in life is filtered through the work, and the pandemic is something that we’re dealing with moment to moment, week to week, but I don’t think that my work is illustrative in that sense,” he explains. “The paintings aren’t about anything, so even though I’ve been experiencing fear and anxiety, just like everybody else, I don’t know that they would register in the way the paintings look.”
Even though Bradley’s casualist paintings are mostly unaffected by outside influence, they have evolved since his first New York gallery show in 2003, and even since his 2012 Elaine de Kooning residency. “The bones are more or less the same—it’s painting and drawing, for the most part—but the paintings look different than they did 10 years ago, and they tend to take longer now, for whatever reason. I think I’m either pickier or more uptight, so they tend to need a little more time in the studio,” he notes.
“Painting is gratifying, and it’s not easy. It’s interesting because people who aren’t artists probably imagine that it’s like this very easygoing pleasure cruise of a gig, but it’s not really like that,” he says. “It sort of gets more and more difficult the longer you do it—like you know less about painting the longer you paint. That being said, it feels like I’m probably doing the right thing with my life.”
To see more of Joe Bradley’s work, including his shows at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, visit presenhuber.com/artists/joe-bradley, and for more information about Elaine de Kooning House, visit elainedekooninghouse.org.