Some art, just like bubble wrap, just begs for you to reach out and touch. But what if the art was bubble wrap – could you control yourself?
That is the impulse Bradley Hart, a Canadian visual artist, seems to be triggering with his current bubble wrap art exhibition at gallery nine5 in New York City. Hart has created a series of landscape and portrait mosaics by injecting large swaths of bubble wrap with a mixture of latex and acrylic paint colors. Up close, the paintings look like multi-colored bubble wrap, albeit with each bubble hardened. But from afar, the works resemble pixilated prints of digital images.
“I’m doing a post-modern, pointillist painting – although I don’t like to classify my work as paintings themselves,” Hart said. Rather, he views his work like a sculptor, prioritizing materials and process over the image itself.
The centerpiece of Hart’s show is a 5x4ft rendering of a smiling Steve Jobs’ digital image. Hart said he chose to “inject” Jobs out of a personal affinity for the late Apple pioneer.
“From a business point-of-view, as a CEO, all that stuff, I thought he was a great guy, a great personality,” explained Hart. “I can harken back and say ‘well yes, one of my first computers was an Apple II Plus.”
After deciding on a subject to inject into the bubble wrap, Hart employs a secretive process of mapping the image with software he developed with a friend. He then assigns a color code to his paint syringes and maps the bubble wrap. Each bubble is assigned a number that corresponds with a paint syringe. Working from the bottom and moving up, Hart and a team of assistants then painstakingly inject each bubble from behind the canvas. He averages a rate of three bubbles a minute.
“From cradle to grave, a painting can take anywhere from 120 [hours], upwards to my biggest piece so far, which was Dam Square – Amsterdam, [which] was 310 hours.”
Hart is drawn to bubble wrap in order to re-imagine its contemporary usage while also restoring the material to its original purpose. According to Hart, who has researched the material, bubble wrap was originally invented in 1957 to be used as wall paper. “I think I’ve taken something genuinely nobody imagined could be art, and as an artist, flipped it on its head,” he said.
As for the seemingly invariable prospect of spectators attempting to pop the painted bubble wrap, Hart said they will be disappointed. “The paint is filled within the bubble, and it is dry.”
To learn more about Bradley Hart’s bubble wrap paintings, you can visit his online portfolio. His exhibit at gallery nine5, “What? Where? When? Why? How?”, runs until April 5th.