Tag Archives: Bradley Butler

From The Director: Utopia/Dystopia

Installation view from "Utopia/Dystopia", painting in foreground by Polly Little

Installation view from ‘Utopia/Dystopia’, painting in foreground by Polly Little

Juried exhibitions are interesting from my perspective as a gallery director. There is much less control of the outcome in an exhibition like this. Typically, I get to choose each artist—and many times, each specific piece—that will be included in a show. From the beginning, I have an idea of how the exhibition will come together and how it can be installed to become an interesting thing unto itself. However, in a juried show I have no control over what will be displayed, only how it will be  displayed.

The usual exhibition at Main Street Arts has its beginnings in seeing a specific piece by an artist and slowly building the idea for the exhibition around that. The place that I end up may be different from where I started but it is this organic process that keeps things interesting for me from year to year.

The current national juried exhibition, Utopia/Dystopia features 40 artists from 15 different states selected by our juror, John Massier—visual arts curator at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. The idea for this exhibition came to me last year during the strange spectacle that was primaries and started out only as “dystopia”, with no brighter side. As a little time passed, it became important to add in “utopia” as the counterpoint with the hope for an exhibition that presented competing visions of the future. The resulting exhibition brings the realization that the themes of utopia and dystopia can be left to interpretation.

Installation view of 'Utopia/Dystopia', Painting by Sarah Peck in foreground

Installation view of ‘Utopia/Dystopia’, Painting by Sarah Peck in foreground

There are of course pieces in the show that are always read as depicting  dystopia (i.e. things that are on fire or demonic figures) and then there are those that could be both. Endless Pool by Anna Pleskow could be read either way, I see both isolation and serenity. Fretful Mickey by Jennifer McCandless  is meant to be “a dystopian Disney that is hot, crowded, and the only thing to eat is a giant turkey leg” (a quote from the artist) but I could also see this as an alternative version of the Disney classic that is perhaps even more captivating.

(left) "Endless Pool" by Anna Pleskow (right) "Fretful Mikey" by Jennifer McCandless

(left) “Endless Pool” by Anna Pleskow (right) “Fretful Mikey” by Jennifer McCandless

Even though I had a complete lack of control in selecting the work for Utopia/Dystopia, I am very happy with the selections made by our juror. It is an eclectic mix that makes you laugh, scratch your head, and maybe even get a little creeped out! Stop in before June 30, 2017 to see the show before it is gone.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler: Part Two

Bradley Butler

Detail of Inner Interior (2012)

I have always been attracted to a darker palette. Muddy colors, mixing lots of black and white with my colors, using copious amounts of India ink and powdered charcoal… This led me down a path of slightly grey, almost “dim” work that masked the color that was present in my paintings. For a while, I was trying to mask this color as a way for people to discover it as they stared into the surface. Images and colors would show themselves after your eyes adjusted to the darkness on the immediate surface. You would begin to notice that it wasn’t a flat black or grey you were looking at but a rich grouping of blues, reds, browns and greens.

Bradley Butler

Detail of Sliding Frame of Reference (2011)

Bradley Butler

Detail of Underneath The Expanse (2012)

My work as of late has been a reveal of the colors that were always there but were just hiding beneath the surface. I still “muddy up” the palette and most likely, will always do that;  but more color—vibrant at times—has been showing up in my compositions. I see my recent work (March–October, 2014) as a refined approach to color and also to mark-making. Using brushes I have not picked up in years, leaving marks I would have otherwise covered in the past, and trying to think differently about the way I begin a painting. These are all ways in which I have “forced” a change. Other natural changes have resulted from this as well.

studio shot bradley butler

Two new 30in x 30in canvases are in the works in the studio.

detail of new work by Bradley Butler

Detail of 30in x 30in painting in progress

The paintings have become more consistent, and I feel, more impactful. There are still subtle and understated areas but they pack more punch now… The mystery and depth I am after is still there and will always be there (I hope), but with a new palette. I still use the same colors, I just mix them differently and set different expectations for myself. The colors I use are Golden Brand acrylics because that’s what Kathy Calderwood told me to use when I took her class in college. I use cadmium red, napthol red, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue (green shade), ultramarine blue, titanium white, and mars black. At times, additions or substitutions are made but that happens rarely.

Bradley Butler

My current palette as I work in the studio. This is a popular mix for me lately: ultramarine, pthalo, and cad. yellow with varying degrees of black and white… I also let the colors run into each other to see what happens!

Part three in this series will be coming soon. Until then, stop into the gallery to see The Opposite of Concrete where six of my paintings are featured, along with great work by 4 other talented artists.

Read part one of Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler, here.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler: Part One

Bradley Butler

The studio just before bringing these paintings to the gallery. Pictured (L to R) “The Impossibility  of Understanding”, “Intentionally Losing Direction”, and “The Mirage of Truth”.

Preparing for this exhibition, for me, was a multi-faceted experience. Being both the gallery director and also 1 of 5 exhibiting artists, I found myself feeling many different things. Even though I was concerned with the way inclusion of artwork by the gallery director would be perceived; I was excited to host an exhibition featuring abstraction as the unifying conceptual theme on the main floor.

Abstract painting has been the most direct way for me to communicate visually with an audience. It affects me on the most primal level and allows for a contemplative and direct connection to my deepest thoughts in the studio. When painting, I am sorting out my thoughts and beliefs, processing world events, and also cultivating a visual language. I am constantly experimenting with different approaches to achieving images that are thoroughly “worked” and wrought with a fury of brush strokes, washes of fluid paints, and linear scratches of charcoal and conté crayon.

Bradley Butler

Detail of “Intentionally Losing Direction” while in progress.

For this exhibition, I knew I wanted to have an entirely new set of paintings and I had already begun working towards my current frame of mind in the studio. On January 1, 2013, I began working on new paintings in a new studio for the first time in 8 months (My wife and I bought a house, I had 3 jobs, and no time…). This was a very important time for me and I experienced a renaissance of artistic activity that was lacking from my life. I began to make a body of work that was distinctly different from my MFA thesis body of work from 2010, while still working within the confines of an overall aesthetic I had developed. Realizing this, I pushed on and continued to evolve as an artist. This is still happening and I couldn’t be more excited.

Bradley Butler

Six paintings on paper, part of the “Planes of Existence” series. Three of these are included in the exhibition.

The paintings featured in  The Opposite of Concrete are my most recent. They represent the direction I am heading in as well as my chosen format for the foreseeable future, or at least for a while… I have come to realize that working within a structural standard (30in x 30in canvases and 6in x 9in or 9in x 12in works on paper) takes my mind off of questions like “how big?” and “vertical or horizontal?” I am able to focus on the composition and the development of a more refined color palette, as well as a larger repertoire of the lines and shapes that make up my images. The intuitive manner in which I work usually dictates the direction I end up taking with my paintings. It is an adventure without a specific plan and that is both exciting and frightening! Making formal decisions about the surface or color palette is the only control I allow myself to have. Everything else after that is a chance encounter with brushes and pigments…

Bradley Butler

Detail of “The Mirage of Truth” while in progress.

You can see more images from my studio on Instagram.

Read Part Two of Inside The Artist’s Studio with Bradley Butler, here.

Check out our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by ceramic artist Samantha Stumpf.

Upcoming Exhibition: The Opposite of Concrete

Main Street Arts is preparing for our next show in the main gallery space, The Opposite of Concrete: An Exhibition of Abstract Painting and Photography.

Main Street Arts, The Opposite of Concrete, 2014

Main Street Arts, The Opposite of Concrete, 2014. Left to right: Carl Chiarenza, Bradley Butler, Karen Sardisco, Sarah Sutton, and Patricia Wilder

This exhibition features five different approaches to making abstract imagery through painting and photography by Carl Chiarenza, Karen Sardisco, Sarah Sutton, Patricia Wilder, and Bradley Butler (gallery director at Main Street Arts).

The opening reception for The Opposite of Concrete is Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 4 to 7 pm. For reception updates make sure to rsvp to our Facebook event. We hope to see you there!

Exhibition Dates: September 6–November 1, 2014

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 4 to 7 pm

 

For now, check out our blog posts on a few of our exhibiting artists:

A Studio Visit with Painter Sarah Sutton

An interview with Carl Chiarenza