Peter Bradley (b. 1940, Connellsville, PA) is a painter and sculptor whose work is associated with the Color Field movement. Across his abstract paintings, vivid hues splatter and stain the canvas, creating surface effects that celebrate encounters with color. Bradley uses acrylic gel paint, a medium that was newly developed at the start of his practice, to combine wide gestural passages and saturated layers of color with an expressivity that influenced abstract artists such as the New New Painters in the 1970s, and expanded the possibilities of the medium. His work takes advantage of the intrinsically performative nature of color, revelling in its brilliance and splendor, and was recognized by repeated shows at André Emmerich, New York, a noted champion of Color Field painting. Bradley is recognized for curating one of the first racially integrated shows in the United States, with the backing of collector and philanthropist John de Menil. Presented in 1971 in Houston, The De Luxe Show became a landmark moment in civilrights history.
Simone Swan: You’ve spoken, lyrically, about art that’s clear and free of obstruction. You even said free of pollution. What do you mean?
Peter Bradley: It’s just art that’s clean and free and wide open, unlike the art of the fifties and forties which was cloudy. Pollock-type art-big globs that looked good but didn’t strike you as being “clean.” Clarity and order go all the way back to early Egyptian and African art, so called primitive. Looks as if they’re going to win again. Everyday simple arrangements of color and form seem to break the barrier of all of the erotic expressionist art. Today’s art might be telling a secret about the earth’s environment. Art is becoming clean and neat. Clarity moves me. Maybe it’s a message, a prophecy. I don’t know.
Peter Bradley, “Simone Swan: Conversation with Peter Bradley, Curator of the Deluxe Show,” interview by Simone Swan, in The Deluxe Show: Exhibition Catalogue (Houston: Menil Foundation, 1971).
Thaddeus Mosley (b. 1926, New Castle, PA) is a Pittsburgh-based self-taught artist whose monumental sculptures are crafted with the felled trees of Pittsburgh’s urban canopy, via the city’s Forestry Division; wood from local sawmills; and reclaimed building materials. Using only a mallet and chisel, he reworks salvaged timber into biomorphic forms. With influences ranging from Isamu Noguchi to Constantin Brâncușsi—and the Bamum, Dogon, Baoulé, Senufo, Dan, and Mossi works of his personal collection—Mosley’s sculptures mark an inflection point in the history of American abstraction. These “sculptural improvisations,” as he calls them, take cues from the modernist traditions of jazz.
Some people make models for everything. I knew a guy who would make models in clay that he would then carve into stone. I always thought that his models had more interest, more spirit, and more spontaneity than his stone pieces. The only way you can really achieve something is if you’re not working so much from a pattern. That’s also the essence of good jazz. What’s happening now with jazz is that everyone has become so academic, everything is so schooled out. The old jazz was a lot more spontaneous. I’ve heard artists say that they weren’t going to do something until they knew exactly what they were doing. I never know exactly what I’m doing. I think you’re always learning, always trying. To me, that is the interesting part of being an artist. - Thaddeus Mosley as told to Hans Ulrich Obrist
Maja Ruznic (b. 1983, Bosnia and Herzegovina) is a New Mexico-based artist who paints diluted, out-of-focus figures and landscapes that explore nostalgia and childhood trauma and are influenced in part by war and the refugee experience. The ritualistic nature of her work reflects religious and mythological interests, including Slavic paganism and Shamanism.
For six years following her graduation from the California College of the Arts, Ruznic worked with ink and watercolor in her small San Francisco bedroom. She refers to the loose, runny style she developed as “the drunken hand.” Ruznic has since expanded this gestural approach to oil, while still bearing the influence of water-based media.
Instead of fixing her art in an in-between space—as it has been in the reality of many migrant and refugee artists—Maja Ruznic has brought the peripheral into the mainstream, creatively interweaving different aspects of her American, European, Bosnian, feminist, migrant, and refugee belongings and longings. Her work delivers the veiled narratives of home and exile in a nonlinear, synchronic way. These narratives are transformed into imagery: the factual and imagined are interwoven with symbols that are rarely obvious—rather, they remain hidden and encrypted as metaphors and allegories.
Nonetheless, many aspects of this blended visual reality become universally readable, and, in some respects, more powerful and conclusive than the “reality” itself. The strong documentary and biographical elements in Ruznic’s artworks make them museumlike artifacts, serving the function of semihistorical references to the times we live in and the times before and beyond our existence. Her art represents a vessel in which the memory of trauma, grief, and resilience are interpreted, visualized, and situated. - Hariz Halilovich, "Painting Sevdah: The Poetics of Maja Ruznic's Art," in In the Sliver of the Sun Taos: Harwood Museum of Art, 2021.
Tabboo! (Stephen Tashjian, b. 1959, Leicester, MA) is a multidisciplinary performer, designer, and artist with a fascination for celebrity, cityscapes, and the aesthetics of the everyday. Coming to prominence at the heart of New York City’s drag scene in the 1980s, Tabboo!’s work holds a diaristic impulse that has ranged from the visuals of nightlife to idyllic views of the everyday. Portraits of friends, still lifes, and work related to current political opposition populates the artist’s oeuvre, rendered sparkling and bittersweet with a striking honesty. Tabboo! has performed extensively, created murals for public projects, designed flyers, album covers, and collaborated with fashion designers. Back in the day, downtown was mostly factories, and many were going out of business. I’d say this was around 1984 I was walking down 14th Street and this huge glitter factory had closed, and they’d dumped their deadstock onto the street. Boxes and boxes of old-school glitter. The kind that’s illegal now. It cuts your eyes. You can’t get this shit at Michaels. Every single color just like the paint chips at Sherwin- Williams: magenta, light blue, steel grays, light greens ... As soon as I opened one of the boxes and the sun hit the glitter, my head exploded, and other people started grabbing the boxes, like pigeons to crumbs. I grabbed as many as I could—maybe forty-five boxes—and ran home and back to get more. I knew right away I wanted to use the glitter in the paintings, just like when we threw glitter onto Jackie Curtis’s coffin. - Tabboo! as told to Jacob Robichaux
Xiao Jiang (b. 1977, Jinggangshan, Jiangxi Province, China) creates atmospheric oil paintings of landscapes, people, and interiors. His subjects are drawn from his daily routine, mostly deriving from his own photographs, and serve as extensions of his lived experience. Xiao takes a painterly, imaginative approach to his source imagery, generating pictures of real places that are simultaneously detached and emotive. Inspired by a childhood of growing up in the mountains, Xiao’s expansive landscapes and rugged highlands are sites of unconscious expression and serve as meditative repositories for the artist’s inner thoughts. Human presence is often implied through empty, man-made paths that act as metaphors of the idiomatic “road ahead.” The artist structures his paintings using complementary shades of muted red and green that echo the quiet harmony of his subjects. Visual elements are simplified into flat planes of color, barely modulated and stripped of fine detail. The resulting works are reminiscent of the poetic solitude of Edward Hopper paintings. As the artist has stated: “I would like my artworks to be less straightforward; they appeared to be ordinary yet with a hint of suggestion. This helps leave room for audiences to have their own interpretation.”