These Bubble Wrap Paintings are More Than Surface Deep
Bradley Hart’s works are pointillism for the modern age.
Hendrix Part A, 2016, ©Bradley Hart and courtesy of Anna Zorina Gallery, New York City
In every bottle of Perrier, there are millions of bubbles. Together, #ExtraordinairePerrier and The Creators Project celebrate "the extraordinary" behind some of the most fascinating artists pushing boundaries through their chosen medium, technique, and perspective. This is an ongoing series exploring those artists.
You'd be forgiven for assuming that Bradley Hart’s work is the product of a new Snapchat filter or extreme close-ups of a computer screen, but these hyperrealistic pixelated images are, in fact, just the opposite of high tech. Using custom algorithms, Hart injects acrylic paint into the air pockets of everyday bubble wrap stretched over the wooden frame of a traditional canvas.
The works are pointillism for the modern age. Much like the Impressionist technique of painting in small dots, Hart’s style makes it challenging for viewers to go below his works’ arresting bubble wrap surfaces: “People see different layers initially,” Hart says. “Some people see the bubble wrap, some people see the subject, some people see environmental themes. You can’t control it.”
But what must be controlled when it comes to Hart’s work is viewer interaction. While plastic bubble wrap has a lifespan of hundreds of years, Hart’s painting suspended within it can be lost in seconds if viewers give into the temptation to pop the bubbles. The works are at once durable and fragile, a paradox the artist extends conceptually into our increasingly digital world where our online lives seem safe outside of nature, but are only a computer crash away from destruction.
©Bradley Hart and courtesy of Anna Zorina Gallery, New York City
The friction between the real, material world and the digital one is abundant in Hart’s work. When viewed online, it’s nearly impossible to get a sense of the bubble wrap paint pixels in his portraits of Albert Einstein and Jimi Hendrix or his reproductions of classics like Matisse’s Odalisque or Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. “They’re painted to be photorealistic,” Hart says of his work, “but when they’re viewed on a screen, it’s even beyond that.”
Seen online without any context, Hart’s work appears far from the physical paintings that they actually are. How we see something–whether in person, in a book or on a screen–affects what we see, and this idea is central to the artist’s latest series of bubble wrap artworks.
Entitled Touch Me, the upcoming series will feature bubble wrap portraits of items people can’t or shouldn’t touch. Each image will also be accompanied by an audio recording of people remembering a time when they touched the item depicted. Viewers won’t be viewing the works through their own eyes alone, but also through the experiences of others.
Hart is currently soliciting audio stories to pair with the artworks on his website The Collective Memory Project where visitors are encouraged to record their recollections of touching items like a hot stove, exotic dancers, and art. Far from being a surface gimmick, Hart’s usage of bubble wrap is a sophisticated and increasingly imaginative exploration of preservation, memory, and the limits of audience interaction with artwork.
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