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Lisa Bradley.

E. M. DONAHUE

To the casual observer, Lisa Bradley's paintings may simply suggest spectacular optical effects achieved by way of a monochromatic painterly medium. The paintings--all nearly square and in various shades of blue--evoke the swirling tumbling forces of water and sky. They seem to derive their power to confound the eye from the abstract potential of photography; the maelstrom viewed through a camera obscura. But, in fact, the longer one spends with them, the more disorienting the paintings become. Or perhaps "disorienting" isn't quite the word; all the blueness makes them oddly tranquil. To look at them is to feel as you do after turning a summersault: perfectly still, but at the same time full of spin.

In Sufism, spinning is viewed as a way to channel divinity; Abstract Expressionists attempted something similar in their handling of paint. Their depictions of motion--invoked by rough, impulsive gesture, or by luminous atmospheric masses--call to mind (among other things) a state of spiritual striving and (alternately) the attainment of a certain enlightened consciousness. Paint, like spinning, is thereby both a means to enlightenment and enlightenment itself. So it is with Bradley's paintings. Though they are descriptive they seem to assert at the same time a certain spiritual condition.

Unlike organized religion, painting evolves; it asserts new ways of thinking, looking, and being in the world. Bradley's works, which stem from the tradition of Abstract Expressionism, suggest a way in which color and movement can both describe and possibly induce a state of exalted detachment. Working in the tradition of the New York School, and informed by her own considerable knowledge of Eastern religious practice, she gives us paintings that describe a spiritual state but that are, aside from that, remarkably handsome and technically accomplished: beautiful mysteries evolving from mystical thought.
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Title Annotation:Reviews; exhibit at E.M. Donahue, New York, New York
Author:Spring, Justin
Publication:Artforum International
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Words:298
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