“There’s people that paint with colour and it’s called abstract. I don’t think it’s abstract at all. Colour is the most important thing.” – Peter Bradley
Directed by Alex Rappoport, With Peter Bradley is a deep dive into one man’s impact on the history of American art culture. Forging a career in the midst of systemic racism, Peter Bradley helped tear down barriers within the arts industry. Because of his influence and incredible resume, Black artists became more greatly recognized in American culture. Before the age of 35, Bradley’s art kicked down doors of Madison Avenue and was connected with the most powerful art retailers in the world. With Peter Bradley allows the viewer to hear from the man himself of his amazing journey and his incredible impact.
Appropriately, what’s most compelling about With… is Peter Bradley himself. Even in his later years, Bradley remains a compelling person to interview. Wisely, rather than bombard the viewer with his own facts and figures, Rappoport steps back and lets Peter speak for himself. Filled with fascinating stories about his accomplishments and adventures in the arts community, Bradley has a boldness about him that sets him apart from other documentary subjects. In a refreshing twist, Bradley comes across as a man without filters, willing to share his opinions on anything and anyone without afterthought. (For example, he has no issue telling the viewer his dislike of Sir Paul McCartney and his music.) In fact, he even comes across as a man who expectsto have his story told.
Having spent much of his wealthy, Bradley’s life still revolves around his painting to this day. By allowing Bradley to express himself, Rappoport does an excellent job of giving voice to his process. Bradley is enlivened by his experience of colour. It affects every aspect of his life. From music to nature, Bradley’s world becomes invigorated when he talks about colour and his enthusiasm is infectious.
But the theme of colour also works on a deeper level within this film.
As the first Black art dealer and curator of the first racially-integrated modern art show in America, Bradley’s career in the art world helped change the industry forever. In this way, although he himself would argue that his work had nothing to do with politics, his active presence in the community makes his art was indelibly political in nature. The fact that he was respected by as many as he was helped break down cultural barriers and impact change. (And Bradley has no problem sharing stories about the oppression that he faced due to race.)
Because of this, Rappoport has created a doc that begins with art but reveals that the heart of the story is so much more. And, with his unique way of viewing the world, it’s more than worthwhile spending time With Peter Bradley.
With Peter Bradley is now playing at Slamdance ‘23