One of the great joys of the arts scene in London, with its many private and commercial galleries, is finding happy coincidences as you explore different exhibitions close to each other. London doesn’t have the breath-taking concentration of galleries that you find in Chelsea in New York, connected like a spine by the High Line, so you have to focus visits on galleries in close proximity to each other, one such concentration being around the north end of Berkeley Square, with Phillips auction house as an anchor and galleries in Grosvenor Hill, Davies Street and, a short walk away, in Brook’s Mews, before then going into Mayfair.
By happy coincidence, the two galleries which face each other in Grosvenor Hill, Gagosian and Almine Rech, were over the winter showing work by two different New York artists, who were born only five years apart, yet whose work is radically different.
Joe Bradley was born in Maine in 1975, Todd Bienvenu in Little Rock, Arkensas in 1980. Both are now based in New York. I wonder if they know each other? Todd’s work in ‘Slapstick’ is perhaps more expressive, with influences from Arkensas and from Lousiana where he studied; Joe’s paintings in ‘Day World’ are more abstract, leaving the viewer to imagine what he or she sees through the shapes and colours. Both appear to reflect life in modern America, but in entirely different ways.
What do you see when you look at Joe Bradley’s paintings? The background is dark, with lines and colours breaking through as in a city like New York with its grid of tall buildings. As you look, do the three circles which appear to be a hallmark, take on the form of human beings?
Todd Bienvenu’s works show more scenes of modern America and of the artist and his family, initially appearing colourful and optimistic, but when you look hard, they become more sinister and darker, reflecting on the superficiality of much of modern life with its focus on image, which goes into the heart of modern politics where identity and image takes precedent over what happens to ordinary people, and indeed the future of the country, whether in the USA or the UK with Brexit.