Photo credit: Sharona Jacobs 

It's the result of being a father of two expansive and thriving youngsters that my studio decamped from a skylit top floor of our house to the serenity of a basement workspace. There I've been grounded in the task of reconstiting events captured long ago on film with fresh coats of paint. As it's turned out, working below ground can be just the right kind of space for this kind of ever broadening quest. Ensconced down there - habitually scrapping, coating and repainting images I shape a memory of events onto wood panels.

Bradford Johnson, Somerville, 2015

 

A wonderful review of recent show from my colleage and friend Bruce Herman:

Bradford Johnson has been painting now for nearly three decades and has exhibited extensively in both solo and group exhibitions—garnering acknowledgements and awards from such prestigious organizations as the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and MacDowell Artist Colony. Throughout this time he has focused in an unembarrassed way on major religious and humanistic themes—often called “first-level” questions: who are we, where do we come from, why are we here, what has gone wrong, where are we going? Artists and philosophers have been asking these things since the beginning of human community—and more recently have posed even more poignant queries: why are we perpetually at war, why is there such suffering if there is a good God. Why?

 

In Johnson’s work there seems always to be element of immanent danger and potential or actual disaster. Images of wrecked zeppelins, ships, airplanes, and balloons alongside ordinary human activities; indicators of aspiration and failure, calamity and hope—and all of Johnson’s paintings seem overlaid with time and memory. His work participates directly and indirectly in the vanitas tradition—in which images point toward our finitude, our mortality, and the vanity of overweening human ambitions. Yet Johnson’s paintings are never preachy—never didactic…always allusive and multi-layered, they are open to multiple interpretations. 

 

In the current exhibition there is plenty of the above: disaster, tragedy, radical contingency, and a sustained meditation on the fragility and brevity of life, particularly as it is lived out for others: in the example of Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and Edward McCully - revered members of the Wheaton community as missionaries who were considered as martyrs for the Christian faith. But there is also a surprise element we’ve never seen before in this artist’s oeuvre: images of popular culture, commercial brands, poster art and movie stills, oddments of the entertainment industry and ephemera of a particular time period: all from the years surrounding the killing of Elliot, Saint et al by the Auca (known as The Huaorani) the potentially jarring juxtaposition of home-movie footage stills, personal photos, grainy news images, and pop-culture signs—all of this jumbled together gives the viewer an unexpected sense of timelessness in the midst of very particular time-bound moments. It is as though we become strangers to our own lives as we see time and eternity mix and separate.

 

Without a single religious platitude and without resorting to propaganda of any sort, the artist moves us into a receptive space—ready to see how God’s work is accomplished in the silences, in the caesuras, in the seemingly meaningless gaps between clear narrative and random image. We see an entire era through a haze of pictures and yet gain insight into a particular life through the artist’s sure touch—seeing finally that the drama of a martyr’s tale is most honestly glimpsed in the flux of ordinary time: God with us in the humdrum and workaday. And alongside those we think to call martyrs or fools we become saints and strangers in the unfolding tableaux—working out our salvation with fear and trembling in the passing moments.

 Bruce Herman,  

Gloucester, September 2015

 

 

 

Education

1994 Hunter College, NYC - Master of Fine Arts

1987 Wheaton College, IL - Bachelor of Arts

1981 Rhode Island School of Design, RI

 

Selected Awards/Honors

2002 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

2001 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

2000 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

1998 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc. - grant

1998 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

1996 Yaddo, Inc., Saratoga Springs, NY - residency

1995 MacDowell, Peterborough, NH - residency

 

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2014 Spaces Between the Splendor- Painting Encounter and Conquest, UniLu Gallery, Cambridge MA

2011 Tangible Dreams of a Dying Explorer, BCA Gallery, Gordon College, Wenham, MA

2005 Trinity Inspires, Trinity Foundation Auction, Boston, MA

2005 Fidelity C&A Gallery, A Painted Response to Photography, Boston, MA

2003 Painting Past Photographs, The Distillery, S. Boston MA

2002 Trinity College Gallery, Chicago, IL

2002 Clare Weiss, Paintings, NYC

2001 WGBH Gallery, Salvages, Boston, MA

2000 LCA Gallery, Surface, Lexington, MA

 

Selected Group Exhibitions

2014 Milton Art Museum, Group Show, Canton, MA

2013 Reyonlds Art Gallery, Small Works, New Haven CT 

2012 Vista: A Study of the Land, Reynolds Gallery, New Haven CT 

2012 Bromfield Gallery, Boston MA

2012 To Extremes, Public Art in a Changing World, MIT, Cambridge, MA 

2007 Tufts University Art Gallery, 4th Annual Summer Exhibition, Medford, MA

2004 GJA Gallery, Regarding What's Past, Chicago, IL

2004 Mills Gallery, BCA, The Drawing Show, Boston, MA

2004 Bernard Toale Gallery, The Boston Drawing Project, Boston, MA

2003 Addington Gallery, New Work, Chicago, IL

2003 Pepper Gallery, Gallery Artists, Boston, MA

2002 Addington Gallery, Paintings, Chicago, IL

2001 RISD Alumni Exhibition, Boston, MA

2001 Pepper Gallery, New Works, Boston, MA

2000 Pepper Gallery, Landscapes, Boston, MA

1999 Addington Gallery, Sightings, Chicago, IL

1998 BCA/Artcera Aids Auction, Boston, MA

1997 Islip Art Museum, Photoesque, Oakdale, NY

 

Selected Reviews, Articles, Interviews

Chelsea Mertz The Library as an Art Source
Weekend America
National Public Radio, January 22, 2005

Lippincott, Robin Painting Past Photographs, A portfolio by Bradford Johnson 
The Paris Review
[Spring 2004, pg 161, number 168]

Millis, Christopher Smash Hits, BCA 18th Annual Drawing Show
The Boston Phoenix
[February 13, 2004, pg12]

Camper, Fred Messages in the Medium
The Chicago Reader
[August 9, 2002, pg. 20 vol.30 no. 45]
1 reproduction

Weinstein, Michael. Vanishing Point, the Elusive Image
New City
, [July 27, 2002 vol. 17, no.738]