About the work
In his playful, unfathomable works, the American artist Bradford Kessler explores the ambivalence of human nature. He is interested in the factors that influence human behavior and how it is determined genetically, biologically, or culturally. Scientific findings from anthropology to neurobiology and the world of mythology flow into his artistic considerations. His figurative sculpture is reminiscent of a vegetable skull adorned with various symbols of mourning and a veil. While the outer appearance bears thoroughly human features, the forked jaw reveals the jaws of a predator. The two parts of the skull are held in place by a steel spindle, making it impossible to bite. Bradford gives his sculpture the subtitle Gargoyle, referring to the tradition of grotesque-figurative creatures that adorn the roofs and walls of churches as gargoyles in Gothic architecture. They were intended to ward off evil and found their way into popular culture as models for a wide variety of fantasy creatures. Whereas the chimeras of the Middle Ages sometimes had human features, Bradford Kessler reverses the relationship and gives his figures – including the drawn ones – animalistic ones. They stand in stark contrast to the artificial appearance expressed in his choice of materials – synthetic resin, glass, textiles. Thus, the artist provokes a poetic image for the exceptional state of humanity, which in its artificiality is increasingly distant from nature, but also cannot escape it. The allegorical use of the predator‘s bite leaves much room for reflection: is man a carnivorous predator? Is his behavior innate or evolutionary? Is there still an understanding of nature? The non-functionality of the jaw apparatus paints a grim picture. Instead of spitting water, Bradford Kessler‘s adaptation of a gargoyle displays glassy tears with which it seems to weep pathetically over the state of the world.
Mutation and foreshadowing are central to the experience of American artist Bradford Kessler (* 1982 in Kansas), whose allegorical works have been described as a “diabolical symphony of shifting childhood imaginaries and twisted Darwinian algorithms.” Embedded in this weave are personal traces of Kessler‘s childhood in the “Bible Belt” of the Midwest. His wide-ranging body of work includes sharp-edged canvases, custom-made weapons, and biomorphic figurative sculptures, all of which share a uniquely somber vision that invokes the animality of human nature to address conflicting impulses regarding codes of behavior, civilization, technological advancement, and institutionalized theologies. Between 2005 and 2010, Kessler lived in various parts of Asia, including Beijing, China, where he worked as a studio assistant to artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Kessler has taught at Parsons the New School for Design, the School of Visual Arts, and Columbia University in New York. His work has been exhibited at Electronic Arts Intermix, Anthology Film Archives, New York, and Art Basel Miami with Printed Matter, New York, and Esther Schipper, Berlin. He is the founder of Prairie Fortress Press, based in Lebanon, Kansas, and his published work is distributed by Printed Matter, New York, and Art Metropole, Toronto. He has recently had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Wichita in Kansas, with Interstate Projects in Brooklyn and Valentin in Paris.