NEW YORK — Bubble wrap, originally invented in 1957 as a type of three-dimensional wall covering, is now inside most packages you’d find outside your front door. Most people look at bubble wrap as cushioned packaging material or just inexplicably satisfying to pop, but not artist Bradley Hart.
“When I see bubble wrap, I see potential,” he said.
Hart is a New York-based artist who specializes in turning bubble wrap into high art.
“I first came up with the idea after some experiences with overzealous security guards telling patrons in a museum, and in one instance myself, not to touch the art,” said Hart.
He starts with identifying an image and then using an algorithm and software to map out the bubbles.
“I go through a laborious process of turning that image into a series of pixels," he explained.
Before he can begin any injection painting, he must first load up to 2,000 syringes with paint. The time-consuming loading process can take three to five days depending on the size of the painting.
Each bubble filled creates a color-rich composition that’s nearly photographic in quality.
“When you're up close, you can see a more abstract version of these various colors. When you stand back, those three or four colors that you were just looking at merge and become something else on your eye,” said Hart. “I've done everyone from Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Gerhard Richter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bowie.”
A second impression of the artwork is made by overinflating the injected paint so that it drips down the other side.
“All the drips congeal together on the back of the bubble wrap,” explained Hart. “So, when I'm done, I'm able to very carefully peel away this sheet of pure paint."
Hart was inspired in part by famed French post-impressionist Georges Pierre Seurat and his technique of pointillism.
“My work very easily falls into a category I call neo-pointillism,” he said. “I did an entire show based on Seurat’s La Grande Jatte.”
Hart says there’s no need to worry about having the urge to pop his artwork.
“Everyone talks about, 'Oh, I was there. I would run into it. I would jump, and I would pop it,' and all those comments. And the reality is the paint is dry inside; it’s unpoppable," he said.
But they are able to delve deep into its meaning.
“Why did he use plastic? Why is he using needles to inject it? Does this process that he undertakes have some relation to the material or to the society we live in or our times?” said Hart on the questions surrounding his art. “But yes, my work begs to be touched. But that's part of the conversation, playing with the cultural trope. Should I be allowed to touch this or not? Can I touch this now? That's just one of many codes that are in my work.”
Hart’s next solo exhibition in New York is scheduled for 2022.