Gloria Ortiz-Hernández on Dove Bradshaw

The first thing we learn about this drawing from the information provided by the artist is that it is a work of small dimensions. Its title, Without Title, offers no additional information. But then the words [Carbon Removal] indicate that carbon is at least one of the materials involved in the making of this drawing and that, instead of being added on, it was removed.

In an earlier review of her work we are told that to make this type of drawing Dove Bradshaw takes a sheet of carbon paper and lays it over “a clear adhesive sheet that has been exposed to dust. By rubbing the paper, carbon is removed from every place except where the dust lies, and the resulting carbon paper reveals dust’s impression.”1 What we have here, then, is a careful manipulation of two elements that “fly”: carbon and dust.

A sheet of carbon paper appears to be a perfectly reconciled and indivisible object. When we look at it we are captivated both by the glossy perfection of the surface and by its apparent immutability. The idea of separating the carbon from the surface seems impertinent.

But not to Bradshaw. It is precisely her willingness to insert a catalyst that precipitates unforeseeable consequences that makes her work of a kind not seen before. Here, while removing the carbon from the paper that carries it, she complicates the process further by dispersing dust on the receiving surface, affecting both the distribution of the carbon and its volume. The dust, while acting as a barrier between the carbon and the adhesive, subtly marks the surface by leaving its own imprint: it adds volume and tone to the drawing. One unanticipated consequence of this ingenious combination is that, when held to the light, a variety of colors—until then hidden—appear on the drawing, as if alerted by the added and transitory illumination to make a brief appearance.

The surface on which the carbon and the dust finally mix is transparent and gives the impression of being very thin. At the top, where the sheet has been fastened to the framing board, it buckles slightly. The thinness of the supporting paper suggests that the work lacks physical strength.

The fragility inherent in the materials and in the surface that restrains them makes Bradshaw’s intervention all the more daring. The fact that she prefers to work with dust and carbon, both volatile materials that are then further attenuated by her manipulation, offers us the immense satisfaction of participating, through observation, in the creation of a work of art that was clearly supported by careful forethought. Here, we are witnessing Bradshaw’s resolute determination to further extend the possibilities of a material that, to all appearances, seemed to have reached its final destination.

  1. Mark Swed, Dove Bradshaw /Jan Henle (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1998) p.10. []
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