Artists Brandi Twilley and Jennifer Rubell recently collaborated on an exhibition of paintings at Sargent’s Daughters, under the pseudonym Brad Jones. Their exhibition, Diptychs, was on view until December 21, 2014. For this interview, SATW contributor Johannes DeYoung had the opportunity to have a conversation with Brandi regarding the evolution of Brad Jones.
Artists Brandi Twilley and Jennifer Rubell as Brad Jones
Johannes DeYoung: Your exhibition at Sargent’s Daughters, Diptychs, features a group of paintings, collaboratively created with Jennifer Rubell. The resulting body of work is a collection of painted portraits, purported to be that of Brad Jones, a fictional artist/construction representing the “next sensational, aggressive American (male) painter,” as the press release puts it. Brad Jones is also an anagram, playfully reassembling yours and Jennifer’s first names. Can you describe this body of work and the collaborative process that created it?
Brandi Twilley: This project got started after I responded to a NYFA ad in April 2013 seeking painters and was hired by Jennifer. Since then the project went through many twists and turns before becoming what it is in its present form. It did not start out as collaboration and was originally considered “artist for hire” work that would be appropriated and signed by Jennifer. The project became the collaboration, Brad Jones, only this summer. The body of work in the show can most simply be described as approximately 22 diptych portraits of Jennifer Rubell, who has posed nude for me on a weekly basis for the last year and a half. I paint each diptych side by side and spend anywhere from one to six sessions on them. Jennifer does not direct my painting decisions and we do not discuss the paintings while they are in progress. Posing sessions take place Monday through Wednesday for two hours in the morning. We both prefer quiet in the studio and so we don’t play music and save conversation for afterwards.
Gray Brushstroke Face, 2014, oil on canvas, diptych, 30 x 24 inches each
JD: So, how exactly did your relationship evolve from contractual work to mutual collaboration?
BT: In some ways it seemed like it became collaboration all of a sudden. It was this past summer, I was painting, and Jennifer said that she just didn’t feel quite right about the project. I painted her a little longer and then she said she knew what the paintings needed-not a physical frame, but a conceptual one. That is how the Brad Jones concept came into being. Becoming a collaboration meant that we would share authorship of the work and be two artists working together to make the work, rather than artist and employee or artist and artist’s assistant. I think, though, that over time she became more comfortable with me and also couldn’t ignore my role as a painter.
Diptychs, installation view, 2014, Courtesy Sargent’s Daughters, New York
JD: What’s the bearing of portraiture, especially painted portraiture, paired as diptychs in this project?
BT: I was interested in painting Jennifer’s portrait from the very beginning. I could have focused entirely on her body. I feel like doing this project has given me a glimpse into what it might have been like to do portrait commissions of important people in the past when that was a common part of an artist’s life. Jennifer looks different from painting to painting and sometimes her face is only a blank space. The diptychs show smaller shifts in light, mood, brushwork, and color. The way they relate to each other creates a narrative between them. For example “Gray Brushstroke Face” looks to me like two stages of a storm. In the first painting there’s a face full of dark clouds and veins that resemble lightning running down the chest followed by brighter brushstrokes in the second painting.
Covered Gnomes, 2014, oil on canvas, diptych, 48 x 60 inches each
JD: The first iteration of Brad Jones has a lot to do with the emergence and evolution of collaboration as a conceptual framework for making: that is, making in the material sense, as well as constructing identity. Now that Brad Jones is born, I’m especially curious to know where you see his future horizons.
BT: This project provides a lot of structure such as the set subject matter and the time and place to work, while at the same time there are aspects that are out of my control. I think that the lack of control is partly what collaborating is all about. For Jennifer that means she doesn’t control what happens in the paintings of her. For me that means I don’t suddenly start painting unicorns instead of what is in front of me, Jennifer. I also do not think about what is next. I can only speak in the most general terms and say that there will be more paintings of Jennifer and perhaps more larger ones, which I am looking forward to because I love working larger.
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