What do you get when you take the edginess of street art, add the glamour of high fashion and the intrigue of historic icons? The work of New York artist, Bradley Theodore that’s what. We’re delighted to announce that his art is available now at Enter Gallery.
In today’s blog, we’re diving in to Theodore’s artistic career, to reveal everything you need to know about this soaring talent.
‘Banksy meets Basquiat’
Born in Turks and Caicos, and raised in Miami and New York, Theodore’s bold use of colour is inspired both by his roots, and by those he’s rubbed shoulders with in the fashion industry.
His work, which he describes as ‘painting beauty in an ugly world’ is characterised by skull motifs and skeletal portraits of pop culture icons, constructed from saturated colours and vivid brushstrokes.
Over the last three years, Theodore’s rise to prominence has been meteoric, and has led to comparisons with fellow New York street artist and icon, Jean-Michel Basquiat.
When asked what drew him to painting skulls, Theodore has explained that:
‘The skull is the ultimate symbol of man’s existence. It erases notions of race, colour, sex, and brings us all to an equal playing field. The colours and brushstrokes represent the subject’s emotions and history.’
‘It’s about seeing things differently. In my culture we have a different relationship with death, we don’t really see death as something bad but just as your spirit going to another world. The first time I painted a skull I just wanted to paint an emotion.’
Another area that Theodore explores in his art is the deconstruction of personal image. By stripping iconic figures, best-known for their carefully-curated exterior selves, back to their bones, he explores the contrast between perception and reality, and the internal and external self.
Finding light in the dark
Theodore has spoken frankly about how his art arose from a particularly dark period in his life, where he found himself on a precipice – allow himself to be consumed by darkness, or transform himself through art?
Choosing transformation, Theodore retreated into near total isolation for a year, where he analysed YouTube videos of artists like Dali and Picasso to master their techniques. During this period, he painted so obsessively, he gave himself a shoulder injury.
Eventually he landed on one strategy that stuck - painting the canvas black before layering on colour. He reveals: ‘For some reason, when I paint onto darkness I feel like I can see deeper and clearer into the idea of existence.’
Anna and Karl
When he emerged from isolation, his very first act was to paint a mural of Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld with a heart between them on the streets of Brooklyn. The mural went viral overnight, launching him onto the international stage.
‘When I painted Anna and Karl, it was all about the relationship between them and how they are connected, whether you could see it or not. I wanted to explore the relationship between the artist and curator—the emotional bond that exists between collaborators. One affects the other and vice versa. I’m not painting a skeleton, I’m painting people as we should see them, as equals.’
Since the success of his mural, Theodore has gone on to paint icons from history, music, and celebrity, including Kate Moss, Prince and Frida Kahlo. More recently, he’s added flesh back to his subjects, as with his Eternal Queen set, with a focus on adding more emotion to the characters he paints.
Eternal Queen is available at Enter Gallery now.