Nothing changes how it used to be
Frans Hals Museum, De Hallen Haarlem, Haarlem, The Netherlands
14 Mar – 1 Jun 2009
De Hallen Haarlem presents existing and new work by the American artist Slater Bradley (San Francisco, 1975). Besides several videos that refer to the popular culture of music and movies, the New York-based artist will also be showing a new series of modified photographs, paintings and videos. In his oeuvre, Bradley focuses on the tactics of seduction of popular culture, exploring how the accompanying visual language is used to appeal to our (unconscious) desires. De Hallen has shown work by the artist before, in 2007: the video ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, in the group exhibition ‘The Present Order is the Disorder of the Future’.
The exhibition takes Bradley’s key work ‘Doppelganger Trilogy’ (2001-2004) as a starting point – a monumental video trilogy about three fallen heroes of contemporary pop culture: Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain and Michael Jackson. Bradley’s double Benjamin Brock, whom the artist has collaborated with intensively since 1999, plays these roles in the videos. The stand-in allows Bradley to both introduce an autobiographical element and at the same time keep his distance when dealing with the veneration of pop icons. For the videos of the ‘Doppelganger Trilogy’, which reconstruct a live performance by Curtis, Cobain and Jackson respectively, the artist has tried to emulate the specific form and aesthetic associated with each of these three performers: Ian Curtis in ‘Factory Archives’ in drab pre-MTV video footage, Cobain in a quasi-live recording on a fan website (‘Phantom Release’), and Michael Jackson in decomposing Super 8 footage (‘Recorded Yesterday’). ‘Doppelganger Trilogy’ is a characteristic example of Bradley’s artistic explorations, with the artist constantly alternating between the identifying gaze of the viewer and the constructed identity of the object of veneration.
Besides the ‘Doppelganger Trilogy’, the exhibition will be presenting a number of more recent video and photo works and paintings, which further delve into the concepts of desire, adoration and contemporary icons at a variety of levels. In the series ‘Perfect Empathy’, Bradley has painted over pictures of nude models with gold and silver paint, simultaneously evoking formal associations with religious icons and nonchalantly reinvigorating the classic concept of the ‘muse’. ‘Adoration’ is also the main theme of the video ‘My Conclusion/My Necessity’, in which a mother applies lipstick to her daughter’s mouth in preparation of a kiss on Oscar Wilde’s gravestone. Like his contemporary Guido van der Werve, whose work is shown simultaneously in the Vleeshal, Bradley focuses on the possibility of unforeseen poetry in everyday life. Indefinable desire forms an almost tangible source of inspiration for his artistic production.