b. 1978 Lehighton, Pennsylvania.
Lives and works in New York.
BFA, Kutztown University, 2001.
A decade after selling out his debut solo exhibition in New York City on opening night, Brad Kunkle has become internationally known for his unique use of gold and silver leaf in contemporary oil painting. His themes explore the shedding of dogmas inherited from previous generations, intuition, and the power of feminine energies as guides for seeking enlightenment in symbiosis with the natural world.
Born in rural Pennsylvania, Brad Reuben Kunkle spent his younger years exploring and romanticizing the beauty of the sparse countryside and the deep forests around him. From an early age he was drawn to the worlds of Maxfield Parrish and the Pre-Raphaelites — worlds, he says, “where a subtle, supernatural beauty seems to be hiding under the breath of women — worlds where something beyond our natural perception is waiting to be found.”
He studied painting at Kutztown University mostly under George Sorrels, who was taught by a pupil of the 19th century Academic painter, William Adolphe Bougereau. Filled with academic principles, Brad felt confident in his ability, but stifled by the structure of schools and dissatisfied with the boundaries of traditional imagery. In an effort to discover his own artistic sensibilities, he worked as a commission-based portraitist, and began an almost decade-long journey of continued self-instruction and independent study.
Brad was searching for an unnatural quality in his paintings, and it was ironically discovered by reducing his processes to the elements of painting he felt came most natural to him. His minimal palette is inspired by the grisailles of early European masters and the haunting quality of antique photographs and daguerreotypes. “Grisaille has a mysterious quality to it, and that mysterious quality is also at times carried into the way I will treat an object or a dress. Sometimes I like to give just enough information for the viewer to finish the details of what they are seeing.”
As a decorative painter in his mid twenties, he leafed entire walls in copper. He was beguiled by the shifting, life-like nature of the surfaces, and began to incorporate gilding in his work. This proved to fulfill the unreal quality he had been looking for to convey his moody, romantic ideas of human nature and ritual.
“The use of gold and silver in my paintings serve two main functions — the first being symbolic. Gold and silver serve as symbols in many ways but to begin with, they are ‘material’ symbols in harsh contrast to the spiritual or intangible aspects of life. The shifting of the leafed skies and wallpapers are also symbolic of the ever-changing world we live in. Furthermore, gold is the single most controversial element in the history of mankind. It causes wars, brings death, happiness and beauty — symbolizes love, power, greed, and religion… it’s symbolic properties are just as malleable as it’s physical properties.
The second function of the leaf is to react directly with the viewer. As one walks across a room or dims the lights, they are affecting the painting and the painting is affecting them. The paintings become a living, breathing thing to me when the leaf is shifting and the oil is quiet. The art literally becomes interactive and can give the work a supernatural quality. The use of grisaille, or an adaptation of grisaille, against the leaf can give the sense of a very surreal space and unnatural depth within the paintings.”
In an old wooden box that holds his paints, he keeps a slip of paper with a quote from Pablo Picasso. “You must always work not just within but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two. If you can handle ten, handle only five. In that way, the ones you do handle, you handle with such ease, more mastery and you create a feeling of strength in reserve.”
“I paint to connect with the part of being human that is beautiful and slightly dark, stripped to it’s truth and always changing — The part of being human that appears to be romantic, but feels very real.”
Museum – Institution
- 2016 Et in Arcadia Ego, group exhibition. New Museum Los Gatos
- 2015 Transmissions, group exhibition. William Roland Gallery of Fine Art. California Lutheran University.
- 2015 Kwan Fong Gallery of Art & Culture. Artist in Residence. California Lutheran University.
- 2013 MESA Contemporary Arts Museum.
- 2020 alkәmē. Arcadia Contemporary, Los Angeles.
- 2016 In/visible. Arcadia Contemporary, Los Angeles.
- 2014 The Belonging. Arcadia Contemporary, New York City.
- 2012 Gilded Wilderness. Arcadia Contemporary, New York City.
- 2010 Against Nature. Arcadia Contemporary, New York City.
- 2017 Context Art Miami. Arcadia Contemporary
- 2017 The New Baroque. Booth Gallery, NYC
- 2015 Context Art Miami. Jonathan Levine Gallery
- 2015 Paintguide Exhibition. The Unit London
- 2013 Small Works. Arcadia Contemporary, New York NY
- 2013 Singlefare 3. RH Gallery, New York NY
- 2012 Resolve. Joushua Liner Gallery, New York NY
- 2011 Dark Water. Group Exhibition, Copro Gallery, Los Angeles.
- 2011 Singlefare. Sloan Fine Art, New York NY
- 2010 To Sleep Like Ghosts. Strychnin Gallery, Berlin.
- 2010 Small Works. Arcadia Gallery, New York NY
- 2009 Small Works. Arcadia Gallery, New York NY
- 2009 International Introductions. Arcadia Gallery, New York NY
Selected Articles and Interviews
- American Art Collector, The Alchemist 2020
- Fine Art Connoisseur, Goddess In Oils 2020
- Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, Cover Artist 2019
- Huffington Post, Empathy Humanism and Liberalism 2016
- Booooooom, Artist Spotlight 2016
- Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, Featured Artist 2016
- Hi Fructose, Brad Kunkle’s Paintings Featured in New Short Film 2016
- Beinart Collective, Artist Interview 2015
- The Gilder’s Tip, Cover Artist, The Masterful Use of Gold & Silverleaf in Fine Art 2015
- Lapham’s Quarterly, Foreigners 2015
- American Art Collector, Cover Artist, Belonging and Becoming 2014
- Artsy, The Belonging at Arcadia Contemporary 2014
- Hi Fructose, Preview of The Belonging 2014
- Juxtapose, The Surreal Works of Brad Kunkle 2014
- Huffington Post, A Modest Proposal For MOCA 2013
- Combustus, Artist Interview 2013
- My Modern Met, Over The Ocean 2013
- American Artist Magazine, 25 Artists of Tomorrow 2012
- Booooooom 2012
- Huffington Post, The Women in the Fields of Gold 2012
- Hi Fructose, The Art of Brad Kunkle 2012
- My Modern Met, Oil Paintings Illuminated With Gold 2011
- American Arts Quarterly 2010
- International Artist Magazine, Precious Metals 2010
- Hi Fructose, Against Nature 2010
- Fine Art Connoisseur, Three To Watch: Artsits Making Their Mark 2010
- American Art Collector, Cover Artist 2010
- Junge Kunst Magazine, Germany 2010