Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Garrett Bradley reminds us that Black Joy has always existed

Garrett Bradley’s quick, exquisite video installation “America” ​​at the Museum of Modern Art is an indictment wrapped in a celebration. Completed in 2019, it reconnects some indicative events of black life and culture in the United States during the early decades of the 20th century – the lost or unseen pieces of history in a display of inexperienced narrative and spatial complexity. Retrieving.

This is Bradley’s first solo exhibition at a museum in New York, which closes the single screen into a three-dimensional space, and the second is commissioned by MOMA and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Originally, the larger, older institution provides space; Small, a small, expertise. It was organized by Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of Studio Museum, and its associate curator Legacy Russell.

Like other black artists of his generation – among them the painter Amy Sherald – Bradley shrugs off portraying black suffering. This trend is particularly evident in “Time” (2020), an innovative feature film that focuses on the journey of a family that has won for the award Best director of an American documentary at Sundance this year. (is available On amazon prime video And one must see.)

“America,” March 21 via see-through, Takes the original sins of this country’s slavery and its ongoing tragedies to the middle ground. Racism is an inevitable shadow, but we have survived to make our connection between scenes that are variously victorious, mysterious, everyday, real and ironic. Many vignettes Bradley shot in black and white without sound, as the work is short or very short; A dozen of them are often cited for Black achievements or tragic events, mostly between 1912 and 1929. The Library of Congress has designated these years as a major difference in film history: 70 percent of all films made were lost then. The jealous studio switched from silence to sound, which threw most of them out. In an act of reconsideration, Bradley staged scenes such as the 1919 assassination of popular jazz band leader James Reese Europe, the first African-American to perform a public funeral in New York City and a 1933 performance. Florence Price’s Symphony in E Minor by Chicago Symphony Orchestra – For the first time a major orchestra performed a work by a black woman.

Predicted with overlapping images, and refracting, suspending four light screens in the center of a large gallery, Bradley’s ambitious effort added new energy to both post-minimalism and pictures generation appropriation art. The piece is built around an existing film: the unfinished, unfinished “Lime Kiln Club Field Day” of 1914, its all-black cast led by the radical and legendary Billy Williams in his time to emphasize black joy and romance. -Menne comedian, who starred in Blackface. In other words, Bradley is reconstructing both Black (and thus American) history and film history, and claiming that the radical optimism of “Field Day,” having been abolished and released, has led to Black’s achievement. Must have inspired additional films about.

“Field Day,” inspired by the high-spirits and fast-paced pace of Bradley’s “America”, allows us to circle the screen, discover the possible identity of its stories, the discovery of stories and symbols and moments of their regular and horrifying and filmy songs. Have to search for. Not to mention some perceptual overload: Does the piece use two, three or four channels? You might think that the pictures move in matched pairs – especially since only two projectors are visible – but then suddenly, they don’t. In every way, this work is a continuous discovery.

Playing on an almost 24-minute loop that feels small, the projection initially depicts Williams’ stature, with a formal portrait followed by the set of “Field Day”, in which he works with a film of two. White director. ()The film was also unusual for the integrated crew.) From there, and in no particular order, the head of a woman in a leather pilot’s hat appears against the clouds, an image as heroic as a postage stamp; Then we see him through space. She represents Bessie Coleman, The first woman to obtain an international pilot’s license, died after falling from a plane in 1926 while practicing a stunt. The symbol of the founding of Baseball’s National Negro League in 1920, a young man in a team uniform rotates a bat, his gesture easily melting into a swing taken by his younger self. One of the many cinematic adventures Bradley makes in his composition.

Bradley’s best scenes have a depth that supports repeated viewing and exploration. I have come to notice several times that in a sequence about value, a woman conducting a small orchestra is suddenly awarded a blue ribbon, which makes one feel. It seemed to highlight the sometimes patronizing quality of white tolerance and black fatigue with a society that needs so many people in the first place for racism.

Another less particularly race-related sequence involves two children seated at the kitchen table of a modest apartment, drifting while listening to radio, a major bakelite of domestic life. A vignette, revealing the poetic paintings of Hugh Lee Smith, is real: a group of excited boys converge on a man selling balloons in a decrypt blank. The camera looks up to the balloons, which are floating in the sky, while their vendor appears to rise with them and then return to Earth like a wizard. The camera looks downward at the faces of the twisted boys, who record a confusing array of emotions.

The journey of a white sheet through multiple scenes reflects the fluidity, storytelling, and mutated meanings of Bradley’s camera. It begins with a white man sitting on a white sheet sitting under a tree in a sunny field – a strangely gentle, rustic reference to “The Birth of a Nation”, released in 1915, featuring the Ku Klux Klan. The glorification was done. In Bradley’s scene, a woman carrying an umbrella peacefully approaches the man, he tears out of her and repairs them. At Sunday’s Hat in Baptism, seen by several matrows, the sheet is morphed into a rob, then flaps onto a laundry line, where the young boys try to pull it back. In the end it settles in the dirt of a coral. There it is circled by cavalrymen who provoke Buffalo soldier, A black cavalry regiment participating in the Mexican campaign of 1916, led by General John J. Pershing did. One of the riders picks up the sheet with a long stick, making it a flag. At this point, if you look up, you will find that the four screens are made of copper tubes with flag poles. Suddenly, those Heraldic banners are hanging proudly in a ancestral hall.

Another strong component of Bradley’s effort is its succulent musical music, composed by Trevor Mathieson and Udit Duseja, and sometimes mixed with dialogue. At one point you may hear a voice: “America? This is a difficult question. “

Projects: Garrett Bradley

Through March 21 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street. 212-708-9400; moma.org.

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