Frank Bramblett, American, 1947 – 2015
Frank Bramblett was an artist. A retrospective of his work took place at the Woodmere Museum in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia in spring and early summer, 2015.
Born in 1947 in Wedowee, Alabama, Frank Bramblett taught at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia for 40 years. This work is entirely in the artist’s possession, kept away from the eyes of his students whose trajectory he did not want to skewer.
Referred to as paintings, his work is built up on the canvas using many substances and many tools some of which he adapted to the ends of his painting. The director of Woodmere classified this kind of painting as ‘process’ painting.
Frank Bramblett’s work is at one and the same time abstract and naturalistic.
The real world is literally in his paintings. At the same time, they represent views of the world which are entirely his. We may not see things as he sees them but he offers us the possibility of seeing them in his way and in many other ways.
The artist spoke at Woodmere Museum in May 2015: a man of distinct values: egalitarianism, endurance, attachment to beauty and to the idea that we should remain open to more and more difficult quests and not linger on the road. A man who considers himself an outsider but has never made a fetish of the notion. A man also who thinks that we are almost all artists.
I’ve never seen quite the like of these works. The description which came to mind for Frank Bramblett is a hidden wholeness (Thomas Merton) thankfully now made visible in this retrospective.
A catalogue of the artist’s work is online at the website of Woodmere Museum.
Knot Nothing, 1999; enamel paints, acrylic paints, diatomaceous earth and graphite powder on canvas
The Hypothetical Marriage of Monsieur Marcel Duchamp and Miss Helen Keller, 1982, and detail; floor tile, silicon rubber, mirror, glass, enamel, coloured chalk and felt on panel.
This painting represents not only the artist’s close marriage with his wife but also his grounding both in Alabama, Helen Keller’s home state, and Pennsylvania where the artist had most of his creative life. The painting makes reference to Marcel Duchamp, whose major work is in the guardianship of the Philadelphia Musuem of Art.
This work and conversation between the artist and the director of Woodmere, Bill Valerio, gave rise to an exhibition, in the late winter and spring of 2017, with a focus on the depiction of love, sex, marriage, partnerships in the art of Philadelphia and its region from Colonial times until now.
Oh No, Yoko, and details, 1982
Tete-A-Tete, and detail, 1999, mixed media, pigments, marble dust and encaustic on panel
This painting is a remembrance of a conversation, when a child, of the artist with a black American who explained that the disfigurations of his body were from an attack on him by a group of white men.
Tracings of blood on every fingertip and whole body organs pulling away from each other.
Awning, 1973; acrylic, acrylic paints, acrylic medium, watercolour and pigments on canvas
Endurance, 1992; enamel, clay, blown glass and charcoal on panel
Erasing Extinction, and detail, 1988; acrylic paints, marble dust, silica and charcoal on canvas
Dive In, 2001; acrylic paints, marble dust, charcoal and photographs on canvas on panel
Mind Mine and detail, 1998; acrylic paint, cement powders, pencil lead, tempera, waterolour, flashe and gouache on canvas
Rock of Ages, 1988; encaustic on panel
Normally Peculiar, 2001; acrylic paints, spray enamel and sign enamels, on canvas on panel
Healing of the Chalk, and detail, 1991; encaustic, pigment and caulk on panel
Pietra Dura, and detail, 1988; acrylic paints, graphite, marble dust, charcoal powder on canvas
Razzle Dazzle, and detail, 1999; mixed media, marble dust, pigments, diatomaceous earth and encaustic on panel