Bradley Hart’s work is an album of memories made by injecting bubble wrap with paint to create pixilated photorealistic pictures. The pictures are copies of both snap shots captured by Hart or given to him and maintained as a part of his own personal photograph collection, as well as powerful images obtained from other sources.
To create the Bubble Wrap pieces Hart injects each bubble individually with acrylic paint, acutely aware of the exchange between paint and the air inside as one of those two elements displaces the other. As the paint is injected into a bubble the excess drips down the back of the piece. Upon completion of the injected work, the drippings are removed surgically from the backside of the plastic to reveal an impression of the work -- a derivative work with its own meaning and story. Viewed together, the pieces each seem to engage the other and the viewer becomes an observer of a relationship created between the two.
At every level of Hart’s studio practice he recycles as a function of the work. He recycles the syringes; the dried paint in the mixing jar and collects the drips of paint on the bubble wrap and the drop sheet. Hart then make derivative works, which repurpose the waste. Bubble Wrap evokes the plastic nature of our society. 99% of everything we use is made out of plastic… a substance derived from crude oil. Most consumer goods are molded plastic and are made through mass manufacturing. The injection process is complex and time consuming, which highlights the irony of applying such delicate physical artistry to a mass-produced material and the indestructible nature of plastic versus the fragility of bubble wrap.
The idea of using bubble wrap came from a few experiences where overzealous museum security guards instructed patrons not to touch works of art and a left over roll of bubble from wrapping Hart’s first solo show in NYC. After researching the material, he found that bubble wrap was originally invented in 1957 as a modern form of wall covering; an experiment or product that failed. The first piece in the series (not shown) “ Fulfilling My Creator’s Intended Purpose” is bubble wrap stretched over a stretcher and signed, paying homage to its original use and at the same time flipping its usage as protective covering for art into art itself.
The bare bubbles in the bubble wrap reference dots or pixels, echoing various movements in art history and other media, including pointillism, screen-printing, TVs and LCD monitors. In today’s world people do not print their pictures for an album. Their albums are on Facebook, Flickr and Instagram, all exotic rote, yet combinations of 1’s and 0’s. The process of injecting paint into bubble wrap directly references pixilation (and those 1’s and 0’s) and at the same time harkens back to the time of family portrait painting, when a family’s personal “photo” album consisted of paintings hanging on its walls.
Photography helps us to consolidate our memories, i.e. to keep stable, constructed memories that cannot be undone. However, memory is somewhat plastic in nature. We essentially reconstruct our memories with every recall of a person, place or thing, and reconstruct them differently each additional time they enter our minds.
The act of constructing an album is a deliberate act in time and place, devised of a specific set of memories that evoke a tailored narrative. Each of Hart’s series is comprised of his personal choice of memories of people at particular places and times. Many of the portraits are of artist friends. The cityscapes are of distinct places and experiences that for reason indescribable became imbedded in his mind.
In viewing the series, the hope is the viewer will contemplate what a personal album means as a work of art. Typically, albums are meant to be shared with family and friends as a way of creating and strengthening interpersonal connections. These albums, devoid of personal context for the viewer, will require something antithetical to the usual purpose of an album. In other words – what meaning can be derived from someone else’s album? Is it just a conglomeration of images that will produce individual reactions, or will the viewer strive to find meaning in the collection of images that are strung together for reasons unknown.