web analytics
August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Bradford’s Borders Revisited


Finding of Moses (2012) 30 x 40 oil on canvas by John Bradford
Courtesy the artist

Finding of Moses (2012) 30 x 40 oil on canvas by John Bradford Courtesy the artist

The Interchurch Center
Treasure Room Gallery – Main Floor
475 Riverside Drive @ 120th Street
Open December 10, 2012 – January 23, 2013

Judah and Tamar (2012) 40 x 30 oil on canvas by John BradfordCourtesy the artist

Judah and Tamar (2012) 40 x 30 oil on canvas by John Bradford
Courtesy the artist

John Bradford’s paintings span over 40 years of intensive exploration of the joys of the Biblical narrative. He has explicated its myriad passionate moments from almost every narrative in Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers to stories from Nach such as Ruth and Naomi, David and Bathsheba and Mordechai and Esther. Over the years his style has shifted to probe the literal narrative versus the painterly gesture and deeply abstracted expression. Finally, here in this current exhibition, he concentrates on the kinds of distinctions and divisions that are so central to a Biblical understanding.

Garden of Eden is an After the Fall vignette that challenges the normative narrative. Here Eve stands before a thrusting snake seeming to implore for more ripe red fruit. Adam is already hard at work in the fields and yet his faithless wife continues to seek the forbidden fruits of Eden. As the artist comments: “Knowledge is linked to sin.” Eve appears deeply hesitant to leave the Garden, unwilling to go beyond its borders.

In a shockingly similar motif, we find Judah struggling with a prominent rod held by his daughter-in-law, the desperate but hapless Tamar. Pictorially it is a classic master/slave motif and yet we realize that for all of the complexity as the drama unfolds, it is Tamar who will remain in control, fulfilling her destiny to engender the Davidic line. The powerful diagonal division between male and female becomes Tamar’s measure of power as she seems to draw Judah into the waiting tent.

Jacob Sends Joseph to the Fields of Shechem (2012) 36 x 46 oil on linen by John BradfordCourtesy the artist

Jacob Sends Joseph to the Fields of Shechem (2012) 36 x 46 oil on linen by John Bradford
Courtesy the artist

Bradford subtly shifts gears in Jacob Sends Joseph to the Fields of Shechem. At first the scene seems to be simply a lovingly parental farewell. With Joseph and his multi-colored coat visible as a dramatic anchor, father and son are an inextricable team. Yet their arms embrace and indeed capture the very brothers seen in the distance who have sworn to kill Joseph. And so we notice that many aspects of the spare landscape are bound and bordered with a kind of determination reflecting a Divine plan. Indeed, it is only in the brother’s hatred of Joseph, his sale and descent to Egypt that the Divine plan will unfold, resulting in the final creation of the Jewish people blessed with the Torah. One could say that this moment, along with Joseph’s dreams (notice the white stars in the upper left) is the real genesis of the Jewish nation.

The importance of borders is of course central to the Jewish view of the world. Genesis is obsessed with distinctions: light and dark, upper waters and lower waters, earth and heaven; on and on it goes to male and female, God and Man. Only God is One, while the universe is fundamentally about distinctions, from the distinctions of peoples to the borders of nations. When they are respected, there can be peace; when they are violated, chaos ensues. This vital notion has guided Bradford’s approach to the Biblical narratives he paints.

David and Goliath (2012) oil on canvas by John BradfordCourtesy the artist

David and Goliath (2012) oil on canvas by John Bradford
Courtesy the artist

David and Goliath presents us with another kind of border – the division between Arrogance and Truth. As Goliath taunts the Israelites, “For he has disgraced the battalions of the Living God!” David responds “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and javelin, but I come to you with the Name of Hashem, Master of Legions, the God of the battalions of Israel that you have ridiculed. (I Samuel 17:45).” In Bradford’s painting David stands astride the fallen Goliath, his humble slingshot raised in triumph. But it is not the slingshot that won, rather, in a well considered metaphor; it is the barely concealed sun behind the trees that reflects that it is the Ruler of the Universe who controls all such disputes. The tension between these naturalistic elements and the overall graphic austerity of the image opens up this radical interpretation.

Finally the border between life and death. Moses is the child in peril, a decree has been issued against his life. And yet through subversion and a miracle, this infant survives, saved by Pharaoh’s daughter, named no less, Batyah, daughter of God. Bradford’s painting is classical, evoking the balance of Poussin as he introduces a radical pictorial element to skew the narrative. All the actresses are in place, the servants, the baby’s sister hovering and finally the princess to receive the helpless foundling. Everything proceeds according to plan, Moses is saved, the Princess does the right thing, all is well. But Bradford introduces a temple to hover over the scene, in fact The Temple of 680 years in the future is suddenly there in the Egyptian swamps in which Moses is found. Bradford’s art fully understands that the narrative has a very definitive direction, one that will not be swayed.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Bradford’s Borders Revisited”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
The Quran
Dawa* at Chautauqua
Latest Sections Stories
South-Florida-logo

An impressive group of counselors and staff members are providing the boys and girls with a summer of fun and Torah learning and a lifetime of wonderful memories.

South-Florida-logo

Rabbi Sam Intrator recently led a summer program in Williams Island, located in Aventura. The event focused on how to find spiritual joy in Judaism. The rabbi cited biblical and Talmudic teachings, ancient Temple rituals, and the words of prayers to establish the role that love and positive thinking have in Torah values. Rabbi Intrator […]

South-Florida-logo

The Iranian deal was sealed on July 14, four and a half months after Netanyahu’s visit. The details of the agreement were shocking and worse than anyone had imagined.

There are so many toys available for newborn to age 5, but how do you choose?

In 1939, with life getting harder for Jews, she and several friends decided it was time to make aliyah, and applied at the Palestina Amt for permits.

I am not sure how many of you readers have had this experience, but I did and it truly tested the limits of my sanity!

Aside from my own 485-page tome on the subject, Red Army, I think Jamie Glazov did an excellent job at framing things in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

We studied his seforim together, we listened to famous cantorial masters and we spoke of his illustrious yichus, his pedigree, dating back to the famous commentator, Rashi.

Jews who were considered, but not ultimately selected, include Woody Allen, Saul Bellow, David Ben-Gurion, Marc Chagall, Anne Frank, and Barbra Streisand.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/bradfords-borders-revisited/2013/02/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: