Sequoia: Recent Work by Slater Bradley

Slater Bradley is perhaps best known for his Doppelgänger Trilogy of videos from the early 2000s. For this melancholic series that explored the mythology of images and the cult of celebrity, questioning notions of authenticity, the artist cast his own spitting image, model Benjamin Brock, to impersonate Ian Curtis, Michael Jackson, and Kurt Cobain in performances that could have been mistaken for found concert footage or early MTV videos.

Making their U.S. museum premieres at the Johnson, Bradley’s new videos Sequoia and she was my la jetée elaborate on these chains of reflections. Channeling Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) and Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) they similarly blur the boundaries between truth and fiction, dwelling on memory and obsession. By presenting his 2006 single-channel video My Conclusion/My Necessity as well as related photographs alongside the new work, the two bodies of work seem to merge, reflecting each other while blending into one. For My Conclusion, Bradley convinced a mother and daughter to reenact how they put on lipstick and kissed Oscar Wilde’s tombstone in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. While the videos continue Bradley’s interest in the sometimes tragic fan-idol relationship, this coming-of-age video is also a symbol for life’s confrontation with death.

This theme is also a major aspect of Bradley’s recent large-scale photo-drawings, featuring his muse Alina—also the protagonist in the two new videos—surrounded by obsessive gold and black marks simulating tree rings. Recalling the famous scene in Vertigo shot at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, where Kim Novak shows Jimmy Stewart on a cross-section of a giant sequoia tree when she was born and when she died, the videos and photo-drawings set into motion the never-ending circle of doomed desire and longing.

Bradley was born in San Francisco in 1975. He has had many solo exhibitions, including most recently at the Aspen Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. His work was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. In 2005 he received the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in Video. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Guggenheim Museum, among many others. He is represented by Max Wigram Gallery in London, Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, and Galería Helga de Alvear in Madrid.

This exhibition was curated by Andrea Inselmann, curator of modern and contemporary art and photography at the Johnson Museum, and supported in part by the Ames Exhibition Endowment.