Review: With Peter Bradley (Slamdance Festival 2023)


Title:With Peter Bradley
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Alex Rappoport
Starring: Peter Bradley
Runtime: 1 hr 25 mins

What It Is: Peter Bradley is an accomplished painter who has been actively working on art since he was a child in the 1940s. Growing up during the Civil Rights Era in a time when discrimination and segregation made it difficult for black artists to exist and flourish, Bradley was motivated by his mother to continue to produce art every day. He went on to create numerous abstract works inspired by his favorite music, with a focus on movement and color in order to convey the sound. Bradley now works in his own house studio away from the city, finding peace in creating art.

What We Think: Admittedly, I’ve not heard of Peter Bradley’s works before, so this documentary makes for a beautiful introduction. As an artist myself, I found following Bradley for even just an hour extremely consoling and informative as he works in his studio, speaking on his upbringing and experiences in mid-21st-Century America as a black artist. The way he often talks about his mother as a huge inspiration becomes vicarious, as you can feel the affection they had for each other. He describes her as a fantastic mother, who also ended up fostering tens of children, making them feel loved and at home. His is a story that is rich with history and a voice that is refreshingly both honest and, framed by a documentary that steps back to let us listen to him as cool classic jazz plays to his painting canvases. The way he describes his need and love for playing with color is a reminder of what purpose the use of color in art serves in the first place. While typically I’m not the hugest fan of this method of abstract art (namely because those 5-minute crafts have basically ruined paint pours for me), Bradley’s method of building colors on top of each other using movements similar to musicians performing makes the art pieces feel much more kinetic and expressive. I really enjoyed seeing his works and his creating them; the way he’s cultivated a relaxed environment with a grounded worldview.

Our Grade: A, A meditative masterclass in which Bradley divulges his creative process and fascinating artistic journey, With Peter Bradley is a must-see for artists everywhere and of all ages. Seeing Bradley making his art with love and bringing forth the advice he’s collected through decades of creating makes this watch hugely valuable, as well as exceptionally comforting. It could even be worth a rewatch, as it’s also easy listening to Bradley’s calm yet playful disposition and you could very well have it running in the background as he narrates his life and art. I enjoyed seeing and hearing from him in this centered film and am adding this to the roster of my favorite artist documentaries.

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