C O N T I N G E N C Y
CONTINGENCY WORKS: 1984-2011 PDF for more information

It’s quite amazing. The fact that [her work] changes requires a change for me; it requires a change of attitude. If I so to speak change with it, then I can change with the world that I’m living in, which is doing the same thing.

We’re confronting now it seems to me in the very full way that her work is itself working—the identity, not the separateness, but the identity of time and space.

The things that happen in her work are, so to speak, full of not her determination but its determination, such as chemical change, or gravity. She used the word event: whereas she’s interested in an undefined freedom of action for the chemistry. Of not doing anything.

John Cage
Dove Bradshaw, Works 1969-1993,
Sandra Gering Gallery, New York, 1993

Bradshaw began making what she calls Contingency works in 1984…Over the next few years they developed in several directions. The most basic form is silver-leafed paper or canvas onto which a substance called liver of sulfur is poured or brushed. Liver of sulfur is a 17th century term which is still used (the modern form is sulfurated potash)….When this agent is applied to silver, the surface becomes unstable, changing in various ways in response to ambient humidity, light and heat. In Contingency Paintings Bradshaw brushes the whole surface with liver of sulfur, in Contingency Pours she pours it and lets it spread and pool as gravity dictates. [The works since 2010 involve natural material such as branches, roots, thorns thrown onto the silvered surface without regard to composition. Then the chemical is painted along those lines.]* Upon contact the silver turns a brilliant gold, then gets turquoise hues in a pitted or streaked form, then deep blue, then a greenish color, and eventually an iridized black. The initial chemical reaction is most noticeable, but it keeps going at a slower rate thereafter, and never stops. The effect is indeterminate in the sense that the result is unpredictable and often surprising. …

Here Bradshaw seems to have found an enduring mode of indeterminacy beyond Cage’s idea of the event which remains indeterminate until it happens.

Thomas McEvilley
Dove Bradshaw, Nature, Change, and Indeterminacy, Batty, LLC, West New York, NJ, 2003

*Added by the artist in 2015.


Dove Bradshaw’s work exists at the interstices of time, magic, alchemy, and natural materials...Three large [Contingency] paintings in the show revealed how dramatically this acid can create expressive landscapes. Contingency Pour takes Pollock’s drip painting technique to the next level; the liver of sulfur not only makes marks on the silver, it also continues to interact.

Jan Garden Castro
Sculpture Magazine, Washington, DC, 2008

 

 

Contingency, 1985 
Activated July 1985; photographed October 1998 
Silver, aluminum, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on cotton abaca paper 
32 x 24 inches; Private Collection
One of 12 exhibited by John Cage as part of his 1991 Carnegie International

 

Contingency, 1984
Activated July 1984; photographed October 1999
Silver, aluminum, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on cotton abaca paper
32 x 22 inches; Collection of the artist
One of 12 exhibited by John Cage as part of his 1991 Carnegie International

 

Contingency, 1992
Activated July 1990; photographed October 1999
Silver, aluminum, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on cotton abaca paper
32 x 22 inches; The National Gallery, Washington, DC

 

 

Contingency Pour, 1991
Activated June 1991; photographed January 1992
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on linen, 17 x 14 inches
Collection of Celia Asher, promised gift, Louisiana Museum, Humelbaek, Denmark  

 

Same painting: photographed August 1993

 

Contingency Pour, 1991  
Activated June 1991; photographed January 1992
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on linen
17 x 14 inches; Collection of the artist

 

Contingency Pour, 1995                                                 
Activated December 1995; photographed December  2000 
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on linen
17 x 14 inches; Collection of the artist     

 

Contingency Pour, 1997
 Activated February 1997; photographedApril 1998
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on linen
17 x 14 inches; Collection of the Estate of Dorothy Tanning
 

Contingency Pour, 1994 
Activated March 1994 and October 1996; photographed September 1997 
Silver, Liver of sulfur, varnish on linen 
82 x 66 inches; Collection of the artist
 

Contingency, 1992
Activated December 1992; photographed April 1993
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on linen, 82 x 66 inches
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
 

Contingency, 1992                                                                                                         
Activated January 1992; Photographed October 1993                                         
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on linen  
82 x 66 inches; Collection Sam Jedig, Kirke-Sonnerup, Denmark
 

Contingency Pour, 1994
Activated February 1994; photographed March 2002                           
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on linen
82 x 66 inches; Collection of John Wronosky and Heidi Hatry, New York

 

Contingency, 1994
Activated February 1994; photographed October 1998 
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, beeswax on handmade flax paper
37 x 29 inches; Collection of Dr. and Mrs. John Brown, New York   

 

Contingency Jet [Instead], 2003
Activated July 2003; photographed October 2009 
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on Arches paper
3 ½ x 3 ½ inches; Collection of Judith and Sam Pisar, New York and Paris   
 

Contingency Jet [Tongue Stain], 2003
Activated July 2003; photographed October 2009 
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on Arches paper
3 ½ x 3 ½ inches; Collection of the artist      

 

Contingency Jet [Instead], 2008
Activated June 2008; photographed October 2009 
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on Arches paper
3 ½ x 3 ½ inches; Collection of David and Deborah Roberts

 

Contingency Winter Light, 2011
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on linen,
81 ½ x 66 inches; Collection of the artist
 

Contingency Poplar, 2011
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on linen
79 x 65 inches; Collection of Joshua Rechnitz, New York

 

Contingency Roots & Leaves, 2012
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on linen
82 x 66 inches; Private Collection

 

Contingency [Sticks & Stones], 2013
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on linen
82 x 66 inches; Collection of the artist

 

Contingency [Snow Tracks], 2013
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on linen
36 x 24 inches; Collection of the artist

 

Contingency [Lao Tzu], 2015
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on linen
40 x 30 inches; Collection of Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, Massachusettes

 

Contingency [Kindling], 2014
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish, gesso on linen
40 x 30 inches; Collection of the artist

 

 
Contingency On Wall, 1988
Silver, varnish, gesso, plaster on wall
32 x 24 inches
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Gift of Sandra Gering, New York
 

Contingency [Pinecones and Driftwood], 2014
Activated January, 2014 and left in a snow storm; photographed March 2014
Silver, liver of sulfur, varnish on canvas
89 ¼ x 74 inches; Collection of the artist

 

Photographed January 2015

 

Time, Thomas Rehbein Gallery, Cologne, 2014-2015