An Interview with Dove Bradshaw

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This exposé on the artist Dove Bradshaw is derived from the correspondence between the artist and me as well as the culmination of several personal, online interviews conducted between July 16, 2020 and October 7, 2020, as well as additional outside, independent research. All images used here are by permission of the artist.

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“Poetry is everywhere evident and therefore one only need present materials.”

– Dove Bradshaw

(Dove Bradshaw, Mercury Pulse Necklace and top designed and worn by the artist, 
Six Continents Exhibition, Solway Jones Gallery, Los Angeles, 2005)

Citing both Marcel Duchamp and John Cage as major influences on her life and career, Dove Bradshaw, who grew up in New York City, came of age in the 1960’s. As a child she would visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Frick and all the museums the city had to offer with her family. She was borne from an environment whose love and appreciation of the arts enabled her to experience a childhood free from the constraints or boundaries young women were expected to adhere at the time. 

As a teen she was drawn to the works of Marcel Duchamp, whom she believes profoundly affected and influenced the arts in the first half of 20th century, and in particular his Bicycle Wheel at MoMA. Finding it soothing to watch as it spun, she later came to view a duality in its simplicity finding it both “sublime” and as “benign as fire.”

While still a student in 1969 at Cambridge College in Boston, MA, Bradshaw was given a pair of Ring-necked Mourning doves, as a namesake, as gifts. Choosing not to cage the birds, she allowed them to fly freely throughout her studio/apartment until she realized the damage they were doing to her books. Spotting a large bicycle wheel at a flea market, she brought it back to her studio/apartment and mounted it to her ceiling as a perch. It spun whenever they landed on it creating an effect on her in much the same way Duchamp’s wheel did when she was a child. Still, if Marcel Duchamp, as she believes, profoundly affected her perception of art for the first half of 20th century, it was through a chance meeting at college that deepened her appreciation of John Cage whom she credits for influencing the arts of the second half of 20th century. 

Bradshaw’s college roommate in the 60’s was a school librarian who lived with her at the time she owned the Mourning doves. Like Cage, her roommate engaged in the traditional Daoist practice of the I Ching which Bradshaw took note of. Unlike Cage, however, who did not actively engage in the traditional practices of the I Ching until he could do it with a computer, her roommate did so by throwing yarrow stalks to create the trigrams necessary for the philosophy. The process was both time-consuming and difficult. Not particularly interested in pursuing Eastern philosophy as earnestly as her roommate, she did take to heart something Cage once told her: “You have to invent your way because people are not going to embrace you right away.” While one may read Daoist and other Eastern influences in her work, they simply tend to serve as a contrast, or balance, to her more dominant and forthright personality.

Taking inspiration from the work of Cage, Bradshaw encouraged introducing the aspects of chance and randomness into her work by allowing natural forces to act upon it through the birds. She acquired a Zen Archer’s Target, and fixing it to the floor beneath the wheel in her studio, allowed the pigeon’s droppings to “land” where they might. In turn these random acts of nature created something of its own thus bridging the mindset of the two men who, for her, defined the nature and purpose art in the twentieth century. 

Originally not conceived as an art piece, she only intended to allow the doves free rein of her studio/apartment. It became a piece, Bradshaw said, “a few months later when the birds constructed a nest made from wire and string from the studio and hair from my brush.” Necessity allowed it to evolve into a design of their environment. She called this instillation, her first piece of performance/art, Plain Air, and inspired by the theories of experimental composer John Cage, Bradshaw allowed unpredictable factors to decide the fate of her artwork.

That same year Bradshaw recreated this performance piece with four doves as an exhibition at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts. Every day, after eating and preening, one of four birds would fly to a corner room-support near the ceiling. The other three would soon do so in corners throughout the room as well. Beginning with out-of-phase rounds, they gradually came into sync after about  three-quarters of an hour, winding their song into a “hypnotic crescendo” in about an hour. A pause would follow, and then softly they would start again, repeating this pattern many times throughout the day.

In addition to the Zen Archer’s Targets that were later hung on the wall as paintings, this installation-cum-performance was documented in photographs and a byproduct of the piece, the pigeons’ eggs which hatched in the nests they’d made, would be reborn as lasting testaments to the performance as the broken eggshells that remained behind would later be cast in bronze and silver and even gold transforming the artifacts of the happening into sculptures commemorating its occurrence. She would “stop time” with a just-cracked eggshell, rendered in a precious metal, as a coda to this piece.

(Dove Bradshaw, Nothing IV “Series I”, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1989)

Twenty years later, in 1989, Plain Air was recreated for the opening of the Sandra Gering Gallery in New York City before moving on to the Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh in 1990, and the PS1 Contemporary Art Center in New York City 1991. 

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In addition to Duchamp and Cage, as a young artist Bradshaw was also greatly influenced by both Russian Constructivism, an artistic and architectural philosophy that was both abstract and austere and aimed to reflect modern industrial society and urban spaces, and Russian Suprematism, an art movement that focused on basic geometric forms such as circles, lines, and rectangles painted in a limited range of colors. These philosophical schools of art created a movement based upon “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” rather than on the visual depiction of objects themselves. Bradshaw has referred to these movements as having a “spiritual simplicity.”

In 1976, using the title Fire Extinguisher, Bradshaw claimed a fire hose located in the Great Balcony Hall’s northwest corner at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. By affixing a simulacra label using the same font and style as the MET’s wall tags next to it identifying it as her work, she declared it a “claimed object,” her coinage, as opposed to an object trouvé,” or found object. Bradshaw’s statement underscored the fact that the firehouse was already in an “art context: ”It was already framed on the wall, and she considered it as beautiful as any of the other pieces of art in the museum. Its function was intact before she ever claimed it. Like the influential Duchamp before her, she considered her own work to be just as Dada-inspired and just as subversive. Bradshaw later revised the term referring to this as an “a(claimed) object,” one that was already in a museum but claimed by artist.

“There is a fire hose on the wall of one of the rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is neatly folded in a glass- enclosed box, metal frame. It is functional. Reassuring. It is also beautiful. One day the artist Dove Bradshaw slyly affixed her name beside it as its creator, thus making it the perfect Dada-conceptual object. So is it functional? Beautiful? Is it Conceptual? Is it Art? Is it hers? To all of these questions I’d say: YES.”

– Dorothea Tanning, Artist, Poet

(Firehose, now titled Performance, at the North West Corner of the Grand Mezzanine The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Over time the museum would take down her label and she would replace it anew until, eventually, it simply remained up. In1978 Bradshaw photographed the fire hose and self-produced a postcard edition of a 1000 mimicking the official museum cards. She then discreetly placed a stack of them amongst the other postcards in the Twentieth-Century rack in the Museum’s gift shop and successfully purchased two. Whenever visiting exhibitions, she restocked them. The museum, in selling her own postcards to her, became complicit in their authenticity.

(Firehose Postcard, 1978)

In the spring of 1979 a Saks 5th Avenue designer bought one of Bradshaw’s postcards from the MET gift-shop. As it was not copyrighted, the designer enlarged it to four feet high and wide and then produced a multi-colored edition of it using it as a theme in a store-wide display at Saks. It is ironic when one considers that this was all done without the consent of the artist and that her postcard was in the gift-shop without the consent of the museum. These actions of randomness and chance provided a karmic situation that would bring attention to both the artist and this piece of art.

(Saks Fifth Avenue Billboards, 1979)

The following year, in 1980, the original silver gelatin print of The Firehose was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Kline who then donated it at the request of the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of Photography in order for it to be made into an official postcard. Out of their 50,000 images available to them throughout the museum, Bradshaw’s Firehose was selected for one of their 10 postcard allotments over the next decade. In 1992 the MET eventually bought the original photograph, pictured below, and published an edition of 10,000 postcards to commemorate the photograph, the postcard, (not the firehose itself, the a(claimed) piece). 

In 1993 Bradshaw retitled Fire Extinguisher and gave it a permanent moniker: Performance. The title Performance was meant to reflect the evolution of its journey from beginning to end. It first appeared with this title in the artist’s first monograph, Dove Bradshaw: Works 1969-1993, text, A Conversation With John Cage and Thomas McEvilley, Sandra Gering Gallery, New York.

In 2006 Bradshaw had one of her labels framed and sold it to Rosalind Jacobs, a collector of Dadaist art, who then donated it to the MET. The original work, that is the label produced by the artist as well as the conceptual act of claiming this object, formally entered the permanent collection at the museum in 2007, and in 2009, the MET finally displayed the photograph and label as a work unto itself. To date no official label has been displayed alongside the piece acknowledging this.

“I see your work everywhere!

– John Cage, Composer

Since the 1960’s and while still a student, a major part of Dove Bradshaw’s body of work, which includes sculptures, paintings, and photographs, has been characterized by her use of chemically reactive materials to produce an alchemic method of mark-making. She pioneered the use of Indeterminacy in her work by enlisting the unpredictable effects of time, weather, erosion, and indoor and outdoor atmospheric conditions on natural, chemical, and manufactured materials. A life-long disciple of the Dadaist movement, she took inspiration from this and expanded on their concepts by giving her creations over to both chance and randomness: Bradshaw allowed natural forces to act upon them. Utilizing the transformative powers of time, light, weather, and other environmental conditions; she combined organic materials such as water, gold, sand, and crystals to create works that were uncertain, vague, and unclearly known. The perceptual experience in engaging her works of indeterminacy resulted in a response to an image that suggested the presence of objects but denied easy or immediate recognition of them.

Beginning in 1984, Bradshaw began her “Contingency Series,” her first significant foray of two-dimensional work, but instead of traditional paints, she used materials that were reactive to the environment. She began by applying sulfur to silver leaf or metallic silver paint surfaces and allowing them to create their own abstract compositions when they sulfurized, or blackened, with the sulfur dioxide. Similar concept to Andy Warhol’s “Oxidation” paintings, these liquid chemicals interacted with Bradshaw’s substrates causing areas of silver to morph into expressive gestures of black, gold, and green iridescence.

(Dove Bradshaw, Contingency, 1985)

Dove Bradshaw, Contingency, No Date)

Her Contingency Series, sometimes referred to as her “Silver Paintings,” were both homages to Duchamp and Cage in their execution as they were created entirely through the use and means of chance. Silver, which itself is subject to air, light and humidity, became the ground; liver of sulfur the chemical agent; and metal plates, wood, paper, linen, and the walls themselves became its various supports. Some of her works range in size from a three and a half inch leaf on paper while others could span the width and height from the artist’s toes to the tips of her outstretched hands. Chance came into play with the deployment of lines of acid randomly put on the canvas as it lies horizontally on the floor. The canvasses were then turned vertically allowing the sulfur dioxide to run, drip, and dry naturally.

The appearance and composition of these works would change over time as reactions between the materials and environment continued to occur. The amount of chemicals used in each piece would significantly affect its outcome. For example, black comes up faster if the solution is dense, yet if it pools, an ashy white appears, flaking at its edges, but with rain the works sweat and drip lines become visible pouring from denser pools. Silver and sulfur, the alchemical elements used, are highly volatile. As Bradshaw explained the process, she used photography as her analogy: the silver is to the emulsion as the liver of sulfur is to the developer. However, unlike photography, without the use of a fixer, the exposure is open-ended and the piece of art always open to change. Bradshaw loves relinquishing control over her work and giving artistic agency to the mercurial forces of nature. 

(Dove Bradshaw, Untitled (Aurora, or, Borealis), Larry Becker Contemporary Art Gallery, 2012)

(Dove Bradshaw, Untitled (Little Silver Moon), Larry Becker Contemporary Art Gallery, 2012)

Attracted by her use of Indeterminacy dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham invited Dove Bradshaw, along with her husband, the artist William Anastasi, to become joint Artistic Advisors to his dance company in 1984.

“John Cage happened to reach me one afternoon … we had been close like family … Bill playing daily two games of chess at 5pm [instead of a drink in John’s case], and dinners at his house at least once a week, sometimes twice … and outings to concerts and galleries and shopping for organic food or once picking up a whole box of single malt whisky in Brooklyn … and all manner of other things over the years including seeing Cunningham’s performances at City Center and the Joyce … he wanted to ask whether Bill and I could be Co-Artistic Advisors.”

“It was a month before Merce’s “Angers” premiere which was later to be “Phrases.” So John asked in the tone as though we would be doing them a favor. Liking both of our work … though we were not to be collaborators, [he thought that I would be the one responsible to get the job done,] he wanted us both. Of course I immediately said yes accepting on Bill’s behalf.”

For several years, Bradshaw and her husband worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, designing sets, costumes, and lighting for his avant-garde dance performances. The resonances between her own work and that of Cunningham’s were both clear and evident: both made extensive use of chance procedures as part of their creations. Bradshaw’s “Contingency Series” abandoned traditional artistic practices to use materials that reacted differently depending on environmental conditions just as Cunningham abandoned not only musical forms, but narrative and other conventional elements of dance composition, such as cause and effect and climax and anticlimax, to produce an end result entirely different from its inception. 

One of the performances Bradshaw worked on, Arcade, was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Ballet through the National Choreography Project. Cunningham choreographed the dance with his own company, and then Chris Komar, his assistant artistic director, taught it to the Pennsylvania Ballet. Cunningham made the work with the ballet dancers in mind, the rhythms, for example, being more defined than usual: “I counted out the phrases in a way I don’t often do.” The world premiere was given by the Pennsylvania Ballet on September 11, 1985 in Philadelphia. The Cunningham company first performed the dance two months later, also in Philadelphia.

As a result of their collaborations, Bradshaw became lifelong friends with both Cunningham and his partner, musician and musical director of his company, John Cage – as well as the artist and former artistic director of the company, Jasper Johns –  until their respective deaths in 2009 (Cunningham’s) and 1992 (Cage’s).

“Jasper Johns has liked my work and told me privately that he had voted for me when I didn’t receive a prize for Carbon Removals shown at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He gave both Bill and me work and we gave him works.” 

“Once he came to a paella with saffron rice dinner I made for John, Merce, Teeny Duchamp, Dorothy Tanning and him when Bill and I were paying our dues living in Harlem.” 

“He loved my decor and costumes for Fabrications (below) which he told me at the NY premiere at City Center and even to this day whenever I send a short email to Jasper, he answers within a day or will take my calls.”

“It is marvelous to make him laugh because he comes across as having a glum exterior but his laugh explodes across his face.”

By 1990 Bradshaw had established a strong name and reputation for herself in the art world and continued pushing the boundaries on the themes of indeterminacy in her work. A series of paintings done that year called “Guilty Marks” dealt with the concept of perishability and change. As with her previous work in her “Contingency Series,” these new works consisted of various chemicals, powdered pigments, ink, and varnishes that were poured onto and allowed to drip on the canvas. Bradshaw facilitated the work, but after that, it was out of her hands. She believed that the fusion between the materials was essential and akin to the to the fusion between culture and nature: “It is nature that takes over,” she said of this series. As a Danish reviewer wrote of these works, “What the elements will do to one another only time will tell.”

(Dove Bradshaw, Guilty Marks, 1991)

(Dove Bradshaw, Guilty Marks, 1999)

(Dove Bradshaw, Guilty Marks (Peacock), 1993)

In 1993, after Bradshaw’s environmentally reactive two-dimensional works of the previous decade, she sought a new medium in her work with indeterminacy. Moving on to three-dimensional objects, she experimented with the ways in which sculptures could be similarly reactive, subject to the chance randomness of the environment around it, and explored the possibility of allowing the metamorphosis of a sculpture. She began with a relief sculpture, which she titled Passion, in which she embedded a copper bar into a wall, treated it with acetic acid, and created a stain which ran down the wall with it. In 1995, she took this concept further by creating an outdoor version of it by setting the copper bar in the exterior wall of the Pier Art Center in Stromness, Orkney, Scotland, and allowing the island’s own atmosphere to assist in its a natural “bleed.” 

(Dove Bradshaw, Passion, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1993)

This led to her next import series of work, her “Notation Series”, which were sculptures that consisted of copper or bronze cubes or prisms set on marble or limestone blocks and left outdoors to weather. She would recreate smaller, indoor versions of this series as well that were assisted with ammonium chloride copper sulfate to prompt its “bleed” on the block around it.

This series, referred to as the “Indeterminacy Stones”, and begun in 1994, consisted of a chunk of pyrite, set atop a piece of marble, then left outdoors to weather. The pyrite transformed into limonite when exposed to the elements, leaving a permanent iron rust stain on and around its base. Any given sculpture could take less than ten years or over a century to dissolve fully into its base depending on composition and environment. Weather served as a catalyst slowly capturing the transient metamorphoses in what Bradshaw has called her “Time Sculptures.” 

For the first exhibition of these works, which were shown at the Sandra Gering Gallery in New York City in 1995, three boulders were gathered: one flat, one vertical, one wedge-shaped. Writing about her work in Sculpture Magazine,  Ann Barclay Morgan, commented “…the action of ‘bleeding’…could be seen as the female life-force in the process of being released.” The transformation into the deep-colored limonite lent a sensuous quality to the marble. The sculptures, because of the Vermont marble she had chosen as her medium, appeared to embody a freeing from the confining notion of purity that was emblematic of other, more traditional marble, and moved her pieces toward “the reality of life suggested by the veining of the marble itself, calling to mind the arteries of the human body that become more visible with age.” 

(Dove Bradshaw, Indeterminacy Cube, 1995)

(Dove Bradshaw, Notation IV, 2000)

(Dove Bradshaw, Notation V, 2000)

In 1999 Bradshaw turned her attentions onto a unique series of pieces she called “Radio Rock”, which were sculptures wherein art created its own sound. She drew from three different kinds of stones each piled into a “cairn,” a mound of rough stones that in Neolithic times were used as astronomical markers. Bradshaw’s cairns, in addition to recalling their ancient use, focused on the aspect of sound by functioning as multi-directional antennas. In each of these sculptures she placed three radios designed to receive frequencies from three different zones: On top of one is an antennae designed to receive live emissions from Jupiter transmitted via a dedicated line from the radio telescope at Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman, North Carolina. A receiver developed by the satellite industry enabled this sculpture to draw live microwaves that have been identified as echoes of the “Big Bang.” The other two cairns featured crystals which were computer programmed to attract random local and world-band frequencies. The sound levels of the Radio Rock sculptures were set at a murmur allowing the outer space sounds to invoke celestial harmonies that, in archaic times, were referred to as the “Music of the Spheres.”

Bradshaw began work on her Radio Rock series after her friend John Cage had passed away. Being a composer, she likes to believe that he would have appreciated these sculptures greatly. In 2012, to celebrate the centennial of John Cage’s birth, Bradshaw commemorated it by “playing” one of her “Radio Rocks” in a performance space and accompanied it by wielding a theremin, an electronic musical instrument that is controlled without any physical contact at all by its player. The performance was held in French-American artist Alain Kirili’s loft, with, among others, Emanuel Pimenta, the Brazilian-Portuguese musician, photographer and intermedia artist, who collaborated with Bradshaw and Cage on some of Merce Cunningham’s performance pieces, and Christian Wolff, the American composer of experimental classical music, who first introduced the I Ching to Cage while studying music with him in college in the 50’s. (Bradshaw and her husband still own John Cage’s original score for his I Ching Notations).

( ↑ Dove Bradshaw, Radio Rock, Larry Becker Contemporary Contemporary Art Gallery, 1998-2007)

(Dove Bradshaw, Radio Rocks I – Local World Band …, Larry Becker Contemporary Contemporary Art Gallery, 1998-2008)

(Dove Bradshaw, Radio Rocks II – Jovian Radio Telescope …, Larry Becker Contemporary Contemporary Art Gallery, 1998-2008 ↑ )

In 2003, Bradshaw embarked on an ambitious piece called Six Continents in which she acquired and used the various salts taken from somewhere on each  continent knowing that the various salts, colored by minerals from each locale, would react differently and independently of each other when subjected to having water slowly dropped onto them.

She used a mound of pure white salt from McMurdo Bay in Antarctica, gray salt from Egypt which represented Africa, brown salt acquired from Western Australia, an ivory-colored salt gotten from Gwangju, South Korea to represent Eurasia which she treated as a single continent, a green salt from the Dominican Republic to serve all of North America, and a pink salt from Chile in South America. Each sculpture, made of a 150-pound salt mound placed under a suspended funnel which was calibrated to release 7 drops per minute became a living performance piece when shown.

(Dove Bradshaw, Six Continents (Sketch), 2003)

The work premiered at the Larry Becker Contemporary Art Gallery in Philadelphia in 2005 and then traveled to the Solway Jones Gallery in Los Angeles later that year before ultimately being entered in and shown at the 6th Gwangju Biennale in Gwangju, South Korea in 2006. Like the stones in “Indeterminacy Stones” in her “Notation Series” a decade earlier, the gradual erosion of the salt, using water as a transformative agent, made Time the counterpoint artist of each piece. It would complete what Bradshaw began.

( ↑ Dove Bradshaw, Australia, Antarcta, South America, Gwanju Biennale, South Korea, 2006)

(Dove Bradshaw, Six Continents, Gwanju Biennale, South Korea, 2006)

(Dove Bradshaw, North America, Africa, Australia, Eurasia, Gwanju Biennale, South Korea, 2006 ↑ )

“Poetry is everywhere evident and therefore one only need present materials.”

– Dove Bradshaw

In 2006 Bradshaw embarked on a series of pieces that veered away the sculptural and back to two-dimensional work. Her Inner/Outer Triangle series tends to be more purposeful and controlled than the work in her more previous pieces.

Working in sets of twelve, she began with a single triangle placed at a different angle than the others in her presentation. In doing so, one plane on any given triangle would always be equal to the horizon line; however, there were twelve possible ways of hanging and displaying each piece so that each time the pieces were hung and displayed, they would likely be entirely different than the time before.

( ↑ Dove Bradshaw, Blue Angle, Sandra Gehring Gallery, Inc, 2002)

(Dove Bradshaw, Angles (Calder), Sandra Gehring Gallery, Inc, 2015)

(Dove Bradshaw, Angles (Blue & Orange), Sandra Gehring Gallery, Inc, 2001 ↑ )

Bradshaw used the throwing of dice to randomly assign each position a number which determined how and in which order they would be displayed. Whereas one side of each triangle is deliberate, purposeful, and intentional, the opposite, or other two sides, were intended to reflect the idea of that technique. The back of each triangle has 12 holes in it to correspond with the various ways it could be hung as determined by the throw if the dice.

(Dove Bradshaw, Angles 12 Rotations, Larry Becker Contemporary Art Gallery, 2005)

Because of the randomness and chance incorporated in the showing of each piece displayed, the two-dimensional work functioned, like so many of her endeavors, as performance, and well as visual, art. In the spirit of her friend and colleague John Cage, Bradshaw created an accompanying program that she referred to as a “score” when determining the position of each piece. Her score for Angels, a series in which the roll of a die specifies the horizon of a triangular painting each day of its exhibition, sits at the upright piano in her Manhattan home. 

As someone who is considered a pioneer of “indeterminacy,” Bradshaw has a segment of oeuvre that casts decision and chance at the moment of impact. Just as she “stopped time” with a just-cracked eggshell rendered in solid gold, in the 1970’s, she also began gathering .38 caliber spent bullets from the 100th Street New York Police Department firing range around the same time in a “Utopian gesture to turn deadly weapons into art”. She purposely transformed them into jewelry to be worn, found, or seen, on the “outside” of one’s body thereby controverting their purpose.

(Dove Bradshaw, Spent Bullets, (38. Caliber Lead Bullets with an 18 Carat Gold Bullet), 1979)

Over twenty years later in 2002, on the eve of the Iraq War, and as a second Utopian gesture in protest, a Duchampian-inspired performance titled Fire was created by inviting audience members to take a .38 caliber NYPD slug from a red “fire” bucket. Then each was put into a velvet jewelry bag that the artist had signed, numbered, and titled, INFINITY.

(Dove Bradshaw, Spent Bullet, 1979, (A New York Police Department .38 Caliber Slug with Brass Tie Clip, Velvet Bag; Revisited on the Eve of the Iraq War in 2002) 

And more recently, in 2015 and 2016, slugs were scanned and 3D printed in resin thirty times their size to create sculptures. Each was coated with either red gold, bronze, aluminum, lemon gold, white gold or rubber, in a third Utopian gesture to “Make art, not war.”

(Dove Bradshaw, Spent Bullet (Lemon Gold), 2015/16)

(Dove Bradshaw, Spent Bullet /Aluminum I), 2015/16)

Now referred to as her “Bullet Series”, the use of discharged bullets from the beginning at the firing range used by the NYPD to the present pieces are a culmination of permanency and change, chance and randomness. Now recast in rich and vibrant color, they, as curator and art scholar Charles Stuckey points out, create a color that “… is rather intensified by the play of light. As it turns out, the contorted form of the exploded bullet has so many inconsistencies, so many twists and turns, that it’s the play of light over the surface that turns it into something rather kinetic.”

( ↑ Dove Bradshaw, Spent Bullet (Mercedes Chartreuse 2018), Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne, 2018/19)

(Dove, Bradshaw, Spent Bullet (Toyota Blue 2004), 2015/18 ↑ )

The bullets now look like flowers and not instruments of death. Before they were aimed at a target’s heart to kill, but now they are meant to be worn, to adorn a person and enhance who they are.

Bradshaw has said of this series, “Besides the political aspect, actual shot bullets were chosen because they embody velocity and impact. They’re formed in target practice by hitting a steel plate at 45 degrees, then ricochet to another plate set at 90 degrees and fall into a bed of sand.”

Collecting and repurposing these discharged slugs that were meant to kill was every bit the political statement now as it was then. It is a huge tip of her hat to Duchamp to reclaim them, recast them, and assign then a different purpose. Bradshaw has been contemplating  rendering these forms in a  monumental scale as well as mounting a salvo of gunfire ricocheting off the walls and onto the floor at an upcoming exhibition.

( ↑ Dove Bradshaw, .38 Silver Slug That Was Crimped into a Cartridge and Shot by the Artist at the 100th Street New York City Police Firing Range, along with a .38 Caliber Bullet, No Date)

(Dove Bradshaw, Spent Bullet, 1979, (A New York Police Department .38 Caliber Slug with Brass Tie Clip, Velvet Bag; Revisited on the Eve of the Iraq War in 2002) , Box Designed by Artist ↑)

“An artist can’t help but create a self-portrait.”

– Dove Bradshaw

Over the years, Dove Bradshaw has won numerous awards including the National Endowment for the Arts Award for sculpture, the Pollock-Krasner Award for painting; the Prague d’Or Award for costume design, and the National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Grant.

She has had showings all over the world and is exhibited regularly in the US, Europe, South Korea, and Japan. Her many residencies have included appearances at the Pier Art Center, Orkney, Scotland, the Sirius Art Center in Cobh, Ireland, the Statens Vaerksteder for Kunst in Copenhagen, the Beuys in Difesa Della Natura in Bologna, the Spirit of Discovery 1 and 2 in Trancoso, Portugal, and The School of Contemporary Art, Pont-Aven, France, 2007.

Her pieces are included in many of the world’s major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, The National Gallery of Washington, The Art Institute of Chicago, The British Museum in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Marble Palace at Russian State Museum in St. Petersburg. 

In the early 1990’s, Ann D’Harnoncourt, then the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, noticed two of Bradshaw’s “Carbon Removal” pieces in John Cage’s loft and, in 1994, arranged to purchase them for the PMA. The pieces had been shown previously in a Heinz funded exhibit and they’d also been photographed in a book that accompanied their showing. Incredibly delicate pieces, they are made of carbon paper in which organic material, in this case Kukicha tea and grass respectively, is thrown onto oversized pieces of tape, attached to the paper and rubbed, they are then separated from it. John cage first purchased the pieces himself from a NYC gallery where they were showing in 1981. The exhibition had been given incredibly good reviews from art critic Peter Frank, and Cage, himself a master of chance compositions, appreciated the work

(Dove Bradshaw, Untitled (Kukicha/Tea), Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1992)

(Dove Bradshaw, Untitled (Grass), Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1993)

As a coda to a friendship, a mentorship, a partnership, and history together, Merce Cunningham, John Cage’s partner of many years, gifted another piece of Bradshaw’s from Cage’s personal collection, Contingency, in 2002 to the PMA when Cage’s belongings were put up for auction after his death at an estate sale.

(Dove Bradshaw, Contingency, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1985)

Cage once spoke of this piece with American art critic Thomas McEvilley in an opening conversation he had with him that appears in Bradshaw’s first book called Works 1969-1993. Cage began his conversation with McEvilley by laying out his definition of art. He spoke with awe and reverence of how Bradshaw embraced the fact that volatile materials like silver and Inter-active chemicals like liver of sulfur would cause her works to change and never fully settle down. He was captivated by the fact that her pieces were and would always be in a state of flux. His definitive quote, full of admiration, was “Who else does that!”

Bradshaw continues to work today, both at her family retreat in upstate Pennsylvania and out of her NYC apartment. Her more recent pieces have seen her return to smaller two-dimensional work.

(Dove Bradshaw, Without Title, Sandra Gering Gallery, Inc., 2020)

(Dove Bradshaw, Resist, Sandra Gering Gallery, Inc., 2020)

A lifelong admirer of the abstract and austere lines of the Russian Constructivism that aimed to reflect modern industrial society and urban space, and the basic geometric forms such as circles, lines, and rectangles painted in a limited range of colors of Russian Suprematism, her work today maintains its original consistency and remains as both spiritual as it is driven by chance. 

Simply put, to paraphrase the words of Kasimir Malevich, a master of Russian Suprematism, her work is “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling.”

– Richard Di Via

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Resources:

“Arcade.” Choreography/1985, Merce Cunningham Trust, 2019, http://www.mercecunningham.org/the-work/choreography/arcade/. 

Cleary, Thomas. The Taoist Classics. Vol. 4, Shambhala Publications, 2003.

“Dove Bradshaw – 11 Artworks, Bio, & Shows.” Artsy, Artsy, 2020, www.artsy.net/artist/dove-bradshaw.

“Dove Bradshaw.” Artnet, Artnet Worldwide Corporation, 2020, http://www.artnet.com/artists/dove-bradshaw/3.

“Dove Bradshaw.” Artspace, A Phaidon Global Company, 2020, http://www.artspace.com/artist/dove_bradshaw

“Dove Bradshaw.” Danese/Corey, Danese/Corey Gallery New York, 2020, www.danesecorey.com/artists/dove-bradshaw.

“Dove Bradshaw, Indeterminacy IV.” ART OMI, Artomi.org, 15 Oct. 2017, www.artomi.org/exhibitions/dove-bradshaw-indeterminacy-iv.

“Dove Bradshaw: Untitled (Grass).” Philadelphia Museum of Art – Collections, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2020, http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/88858.html?keyword=admission.

“Dove Bradshaw.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 19 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dove_Bradshaw.

Messham-Muir, Kit. “Kit Messham-Muir: Interview with Dove Bradshaw, Artist, New York, 1 July 2012.” Studio Casher: Images, Objects, Ideas, http://www.youtube.com/Studiocrasher, 1 July 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah43IZc6V2A.

“Performance: Dove Bradshaw (The Metropolitan Museum Fire Hose, 1976-2012).” Dove Bradshaw.com, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012, http://www.dovebradshaw.comCatalogues2.%20MET%20HOSE%20%201977.pdf.

“Points in Space.” Choreography/1987, Merce Cunningham Trust, 2019, http://www.mercecunningham.org/the-work/choreography/points-in-space/. 

Tauber, Natasha. “Studio Visit: Conceptual Artist Dove Bradshaw.” Cool Hunting, Coolhunting.com, 9 Oct. 2015, coolhunting.com/design/mediums-new-visual-identity/.

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