Bradford Kessler

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What is my work about?

The best-remembered line in the song “Disarm” by The Smashing Pumpkins intones “the killer in me is the killer in you.” Although I now find this turgid male emotion more than slightly comedic, I still long for something dreadful to make me cry and strive to leave an affective impression like the one I felt in junior high school when I first heard it. Even if my works mostly fail this wet goal – and, sadly, I think they do – the core of their content, hosts a literal interpretation of this shared violence in the form of forgotten animal instincts.


Artist Statement

I read that about 10 percent of the cells that occupy our bodies are filled with the human genome; the genomes of bacteria, fungi, and protists make up the other 90. Overall, I’m interested in the use of art to question human existence and evoke an out-of-body emotion analogous to this literal biological subtext. I hold art-making as a material source for addressing the species-exceptionalism that sits on the thrones of systemic spiritual fantasies and institutionalized theologies.

This great divide within the human psyche persists in holding our species apart from nature in a mnemonic diorama of the artificial, alienated, and ghostly; our bodies simply a possessed capsule that is therefore “immortal.” I often annex aesthetics from science and merge my own biographic details with invention to help the works drift between animal, alien and cyborg imaginaries.

The works are directly sourced from scenes in cinematically-washed fantasies. The narrative function of these objects is mainly science-fictive but will emerge from mundane scenarios and factual information. For instance, a couple years ago I took an elevator 650 feet below ground and toured the salt mines near my hometown in Kansas. Due to the constant climate and lack of humidity, the endless tunnels of rock salt (formerly the bottom of the ocean) are perfect for storing important artifacts such as government documents and Hollywood film reels. Nothing decays. Even piles of trash left by miners in the 1940’s looked as though they were brand new—invoking an uncanny sensation of time travel. Deep in these tunnels also lies the 2-9-3 virgibacillus bacteria, which recently became re-animated. This is especially unsettling because it is about 250 million years old so now literally a living fossil. I immediately began to imagine this bacteria evolving into an intelligent creature and emerging above ground, assimilating traits from the conservative ocean bottom culture of androgen-fueled bigotry, evolution-denying Pro-Life Bible beaters, gun-toting wing-nuts, Juggalo Dads, tribal-tattooed cowboys, and death-squad jocks turned post-military meth heads that fill the heavy patriarchal society there. Only now, and after most of a decade spent in Asia, am I able to clearly see a Weird West genre in this insecure system that seemed so dull before.

There is a destiny in the concrescence of this awakened bacteria and its new neighbors above. The overall aesthetics of this daydream formed the New Icon series featured in these slides. They are created using a similar process as engraved wooden park signs sporting information for hikers and campers. The paintings shuttle between the organic and industrial and are shaped with “grim reaper” like curvatures.  I often choose colors from a juvenile palette and give the panels a rubber coating using an automotive spray gun to invoke the visual effects of prominent car culture in the region. I don’t know exactly why, but I continuously come back to the themes of pain, violence, death, and a return to animality. The worldwide spread of masculinity hangs on tight to a barbed wire, testosterone-tinged blood trickling down our arms and into our own war hungry mouths. Basically, I hate men? I heard 4 times as many men as women kill themselves; well, the pressure builds up and has to go somewhere. On a pragmatic level, these works are my decompression.


2013 MFA, School of Visual Arts, New York

2005 BFA, University of Kansas, Lawrence

Anxiety Social Club, Ashes/Ashes, Los Angeles (upcoming)

Pile of Mist, 247365, New York
Stink By Instinct, Welcome Screen, London

Ever Renewed and Renewing, Fitness Center for Arts and Tactics, Brooklyn
Eternity Pains, MFA Thesis Exhibition, School of Visual Arts, New York

Monumental Ghostly Heights, Dafeng Gallery, Beijing



Land Lords, (with Alessandro Agudio & Michael Assiff), MonCHÉRI, Bruxelles (upcoming)
-1%, screening, Hester, New York, by Nick Faust (upcoming)
AFA2, 63rd-77th Steps (offsite), Pane e Pomodoro Beach, Bari
Narrow Waves, Interstate Projects, Brooklyn, by Springsteen
F·R·I·E·N·D·S, Evelyn Yard, London, by Michael Pybus
Finally Every Dimension of the Soil, American Medium, New York
Please Excuse Our Appearance, 247365, New York
Stoneroses 2, Grunewald, Berlin, by Santiago Taccetti & Mirak Jamal
NYC Porn Film Festival, Secret Project Robot, Brooklyn
Together Forever, 138 Eldridge #1F, New York, by Taylor Trabulus & Scarlett Connolly
Das Gesamtsexwerk, Spectrum, Brooklyn, by M/L Artspace

Sous La Moquette/La Moquette, Ashes/Ashes, Los Angeles
Art Basel Mukwonago, Bahamas Biennale, Mukwonago, WI, by Sean J. Patrick Carney
Fresh Punch, Era VI.VII.VI, Queens
The Botanica, Invisible Exports, New York, by AA Bronson & Michael Bühler-Rose
Dogs Chase Balls, Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago, by No Space
Heathers, Rowing, London, by Alex Ross
AA Bronson’s House of Shame, Gwangju Biennale, by AA Bronson
Dull Theatrics, Penelope, Queens, by Mark Sengbusch
Brunette, (ft. Nathan Whipple), Otion Front, Brooklyn
Maspeth World of Wheels, with 247365, Knockdown Center, Queens
Science Faction, Sight + Sound Festival, Eastern Bloc, Montreal
Magnum Opus, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington
Paramount Ranch, with Audio Visual Arts, Los Angeles
Pyramid Scheme, 204 25th Street, Brooklyn, by Tribble & Mancenido and Nat Ward

The Temptation of AA Bronson, Witte de With, Rotterdam
Art | Basel Miami, Eternal Boy 3D print launch with Printed Matter, Miami
Frequency Response, Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
Ecstasy Apocalypse, School of Visual Arts, New York, by Thyrza Goodeve
LA Art Book Fair, Printed Matter, The Geffen Contemporary at MoCA, Los Angeles
Material Concerns, RARE, New York

Art | Basel Miami, (AA Bronson & Bradford Kessler), Esther Schipper, Berlin
Live Free And Die, Parade Ground, New York
Young And Not Stupid / Radical Even Though Old, (with AA Bronson), Anthology Film Archives
Missinglinks, Electronic Arts Intermix, New York
Hearth Gods XXXVII, Jimmy’s, New York, by Michael Yates Crowley
Place / Displace / Replace, School of Visual Arts, New York, by Sirra Sigurðardóttir
Pool Party, Microscope Gallery, Brooklyn
Brucennial: Harderer, Strongerer, Fasterer, by Bruce HIgh Quality Foundation, New York
Undertow, Comisionado Dominicano de Cultura, New York

Resistance To ___________, (with Matt Hope), The Temple, Beijing
Young And Not Stupid / Radical Even Though Old, Anthology Film Archives, New York, by Jana Leo

Songzhuang Art Festival, Songzhuang Museum of Art, Beijing
City Voice, Caochangdi Dog Restaurant / 3 Shadows Photography Center, Beijing, by Berenice Angremy

Origin of life, Dafeng Gallery, Beijing

Between Spaces, Dafeng Gallery, Beijing
Dearth of Color, Gallery 49, Beijing
Beijing Int’l Film Festival, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing
The Dark Side, Urban Nomad Film Festival, Taipei Film Archive, Taipei

Beijing Int’l Film Festival, Mao Livehouse, Beijing

Run For Your Life, Spring Brain Monkey, Shizuoka City, Japan
Geisai 10, Tokyo Big Site, Tokyo


5th of July, (Cajsa Von Zeipel | David Rappeneau | Marie Karlberg), Kunsthalle Wichita, Kansas
LA Art Book Fair, (Andrea Crespo | Nick Payne), Prairie Fortress, LA MoCA, Los Angeles

New York Art Book Fair, (Nick Payne | Jesse Greenberg), Prairie Fortress, MoMA PS1, New York
Deceptor, FIFI Projects, Mexico City, by Kessler & Kessler
Homesickness, Glasshouse / FedEx, Brooklyn, by Kessler & Kessler
LA Art Book Fair, Prairie Fortress, LA MoCA, Los Angeles

New York Art Book Fair, Prairie Fortress, MoMA PS1, New York
Triskaidekaphobia, Parade Ground, New York, by AA Bronson & Bradford Kessler


Hollander Foundation Award in the Arts, Sculpture Award

School of Fine Arts Tuition Scholarship, University of Kansas
Study Abroad Scholarship, Industrial Design – Milan, Italy, University of Kansas


Visiting Artist / Lecture, (invited by Korakrit Arunanodchai), Printmaking Department, Columbia University
Guest Lecture, (invited by Suzanne Anker), Nature & Technology Lab, School of Visual Arts
Visiting Artist/ Studio Visits, (invited by Erling Klingenberg), MFA Department, Iceland Academy of the Arts, Reykjavik

Visiting Faculty, BFA Design + Technology Department, Parsons School of Design