'Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody' at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA LA is reviewed in The New York Review of Books
14 February 2023
Since the release of 'America', Bradley has joined the ranks of the archivist-artists, figures whose mission is often said by critics and curators to be a corrective to the archive’s irredeemable deficiencies. The narratives that make up history have obvious limitations: they leave people out. Art, on the other hand, is believed by practically everyone, except for those who actually make it, to be boundless. And so creative people are tasked with doing what the entrenched institutions that narrate and preserve history supposedly cannot: facilitate redress.3/5
Bradley’s work undercuts that expectation. 'In Time' (2020), her revelatory, Oscar-nominated debut feature, mining the archive is less a matter of historical restitution—of filling in what might otherwise be forgotten—than an intimate reconfiguration of the present. Fox Rich, an entrepreneur, activist, and mother, is in the midst of a byzantine effort to free her husband from a sixty-year prison sentence; the film, which uses Rich’s home video footage and Bradley’s own documentary work in equal measure, is a portrait of the endurance of the couple’s love and how it binds their family together. Love “exceeds all space and time, so when we started looking at the archive we were thinking about it strictly in those terms,” Bradley told Variety. “That is what allowed us to go in and out of the past and the present, it allowed us to editorially and structurally have the narrative move forward while also going backwards at the same time.”
'America', Bradley’s most robust and literal work of archive-artistry, is the gateway to 'American Rhapsody', her surreal and often arresting solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The film is projected in the first of three rooms, onto four pieces of intersecting white batiste fabric that hang from the ceiling, so that the viewer cannot separate the experience of seeing it from the experience of seeing through it. The other two films that comprise the exhibition are projected more traditionally, onto large, flat, white screens. 'AKA' (2019) is the only color work in the show, and takes the distinction seriously. The camera, positioned in a clear glass elevator, careens up and down; water turns faces into shape-shifting surfaces. In one shot, the sky is boundless and illuminating; in another, it is revealed to be a green screen. In Bradley’s treatment, almost anything can become reflective, a shiny portal. “Are you color-struck?” asks a voice, a question of spellbinding strangeness, even when it gets the ethnographic treatment: the phrase “refers to both interracial and intraracial forms of discrimination based on skin color,” reads the wall text.
Read the full review by Maya Binyam in The New York Review of Books here.
'Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody' is the first solo museum presentation of the work of the Los Angeles- and New Orleans-based artist and filmmaker.
The exhibition runs from 10 September 2022 – 19 February 2023.
Image: Installation view of Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody. Photo by Jeff McLane. Courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).