"Adam Bradley at Fraser"
By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, May 3, 2001; Page C05
"By Jessica Dawson, reprinted with permission from the Washington Post"

If Adam Bradley had grown up in Jackson's neighborhood -- it could have happened, they're the same age -- I'll bet he would have been a Goth kid. Bradley binds nails, washers and springs culled from dismembered clockworks and typewriters into small figures, often women rendered as long-limbed amazons or curvy Gothic angels. Although he sometimes sticks on hair or gussies them up in cotton or silk, the figures always look something like skeletons, or the jointed bodies of androids.

A couple of years ago, the District artist made individual figures, each a foot tall or larger. Standing or lying in odd positions, they often implied intriguing, vaguely sadomasochist narratives -- think Helmut Newton photographs crossed with Hans Bellmer's kinky dolls, with a dash of Cindy Sherman. Promising stuff.

This time around, Bradley isn't leaving enough to our imagination.

A revolving cast of mostly angelic characters, appearing most often in pairs or trios, prance and fly about enacting scenes of expulsion or anomie. To accommodate the multiple figures, each got shrunk down to just about three inches tall. In the process, it seems, any trace of individuality or mystery was sapped right out.

Each piece here turns up the melodrama, perhaps to convey the emotions that got lost when Bradley exchanged his more elaborate heads for bottle caps. Some bizarre high school Christmas play may have included a scene like "Blast," where three heralds on high chase a guy out of Heaven, while "Give Chase" appears to portray an angel racing competition. With all the figures bent in anguish or flailing their arms in astonishment, it's not long before this rut of hysterical gesturing starts looking like scenes from "Days of Our Lives" -- a lot of Sturm und Drang signifying nothing.

On the other hand, perhaps the figures must madly gesticulate to fight for attention with the elaborate armatures Bradley has constructed, like stage sets, behind them. Made of wood scraps and rusted iron castoffs, the contraptions dwarf the figures they're meant to showcase. And they're awkward: One eight-foot-tall standing sculpture, called "Episode," is all rusted base and rods, with a small figure propped way up top. At eye level, you're looking at nothing but empty space framed by two spindly poles. The optimum view, it seems, was calibrated for an angel.

Adam Bradley: New Sculpture at Fraser Gallery, 1054 31st St. NW, Tuesday-Friday noon-3 p.m., Saturday noon-6 p.m., 202-298-6450, to May 16.

2001 The Washington Post Company

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