Helga de Alvear

Slater Bradley

19 Sep - 02 Nov 2013

© Slater Bradley
she was my la jetée
(still), 2013. Video: B/W and sound
she was my la jetée
19 September - 2 November 2013

The Helga de Alvear Gallery begins the new exhibition season with US artist Slater Bradley, who returns to Madrid to present his latest work, she was my la jetée, a highly personal version of the cult film La Jetée (1962), by Chris Marker, an indispensable figure in experimental cinema. In this proposal, filmed in Super 8 and HD, Bradley portrays an idealised and lost woman. The exhibition includes a series of photographs showing the same archetype of the woman idealised as portrayed in La Jetée.

On the one hand, Slater Bradley is nodding to the film Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998), in which Jason Schwartzman’s character says, “She was my Rushmore”, and on the other to Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo (1958), which Chris Marker fetishizes. In Bradley’s film, we hear a female voice, a stand-in for the artist, saying: “she was my vertigo [...] she was my la jetée”.

To help understand this interplay of mirrors, Bradley completes the display with a series of photographs of his muse Alina and a double projection entitled Sequoia. The main idea of the exhibition is around the concept “Time Travel”, in connection with the Sequoia tree. In the film La Jetée, the male protagonist hears himself say he comes from a point beyond the trunk of a Sequoia tree covered with historical dates. He exists outside of time because the tree represents time. He is a time traveler.

In the film Vertigo, James Stewart has been hired to follow Kim Novak, the female protagonist because she is experiencing delusions and hearing voices from another time. They go to the Sequoia tree, at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, where she points at two places on the tree rings and says: “Here I was born and here I died”, haunted by the ghost of a woman from another time.

Slater Bradley superimposes these Sequoia sequences of both films, which are remarkably similar in construction and timing, illuminating Marker’s exacting obssesion with Vertigo. Furthermore, when he adds his own film she was my la jetée into the mix of them, the installation transforms into an “archeology of the soul”. When the characters from La Jetée and Vertigo point to the rings of the Sequoia tree, to their place inside and outside of time, the spectator can hear the voices of the collective say: “this is where I come from”; in this moment, they are pointing to Alina, who represents the deepest karmic roots of the artist and the archetype of the lost woman.
The artist has discovered through the alchemy of art making the archeology of his soul and its journey through and outside of three dimensional time and space.
In most of the photographs the artist brings out the feminine form of the bodies, maximising this dreamy atmosphere that pervades the exhibition. Bradley has manipulated some of the works in this series both digitally and manually, crumpling the silver paper showing the portrayal of his “idealised woman” and creating a relationship of textures, felt tip pen marks and pictorial motifs that reveal a certain fragility in the facial expressions. In contrast, in another series of works, composed of profiles and light-filled golden and colour tones, the strength and character of this woman is enhanced.

Bradley’s technique of creating radiating marks around the form mirrors the organic growth of a Sequoia tree. He will spend many weeks at a time drawing on a large-scale print, the repetition putting him into a deep-rooted psychic meditative state, while his marks isolate the figure by obscuring the backgrounds. By marking out the background, he makes the image iconic while at the same time releasing the figure from the constraints of time. Without a location to ground her, Alina, or Venus –as she is called in a black marker works-, becomes timeless and eternal, or in other words, she becomes one with the rings of the Sequoia tree. She is beauty. She is love. She is time.

Tags: Slater Bradley, Chris Marker