November 2020 (trade): Poetry Northwest Editions | Amazon | IndieBound | Bookshop.org
November 2019 (fine art): Candor Arts
In Theorem, spare images, distilled text, and the resonant space between investigate the legacy of secrets acquired in childhood and held through a life. When the body meets geometry meets the world’s edges, what questions sing out? Theorem is both question and answer, proposition and proof. Accompanied by luminescent images that complicate and dissect the speaker’s voice, this collection is a glorious meditation on what it means to hold secrets across time and space.
Theorem began in the summer of 2017, when Chicago-based visual artist Antonia Contro (www.antoniacontro.com) and Elizabeth Bradfield decided to collaborate. Following each other, responding to each other's creations, over the course of two years Bradfield and Contro created a visual, tactile, and lyric experience in book form.
The art edition of Theorem is held in collections such as the Hammer Museum, Harvard Art Museums, University of Arizona's Poetry Center, Stanford University, Art Institute of Chicago, and elsewhere.
Theorem holds authorial privacy as a sacred, nonnegotiable core... those who embrace the book on its own terms—as meditation, not story—will be rewarded. Contro and Bradfield have done the hard work of whittling down and focusing the frame for us, the way winter has stripped these trees along the edge of this closed museum, making it possible to see the sky beyond them.
—Gabrielle Bates, The Brooklyn Rail, April, 2021
Bradfield's recollection of time and Contro's smart drawings propel readers into a contemplation of the self. I found myself sighing, stopping and reflecting, radiating, and by the end of it, I felt—most importantly—at ease.
—S, Nicole Lane, The Chicago Reader, February, 2021
From its first image and word, Theorem is invested in the idea of enclosures, and how a person experiences the world through shapes and language that fit inside other shapes, and other language. A parallel formal interest of Theorem is how an artistic narrative fits between two artists, and two distinct voices of making. “This is a story of a secret. Of secrets. / / Of becoming from and alongside them,"...Theorem is a radiant example of how we do not go to art for information or even knowledge, but to rock back on our heels before something fully itself, something real and full of wonder, despite its careful elisions of detail.
—Hannah VanderHart, EcoTheo Review, November, 2020
Entering the pages of Theorem, its risky business of collaboration, where the lyrical reaches of language alternate with the curious powers of visual art, one delights (and delights, and delights) in the book’s mystery and control; its structure and freedom; an extended, five-section exercise in restraint, simplicity, and the open ended investigation of the self.
—Kirsten Andersen, Provincetown Arts, 2020
In “Theorem” everything is born of exchange between Bradfield and Contro. The book is not merely a shared aesthetic; it embodies the obsessions and curiosities of two individually celebrated voices... Our conversation unfolds in much the same way, exploring the tension between the physical and the digital, the legacy of secrets, the “truth” of experience and memory, and the stories that shape who we come to be.
—Ashley Lukasik, New City, August 2020
Theorem is more than a beautiful book—it is also the opportunity to experience a profound and generous collaboration between an artist and a writer. Images and words reference each other in nuanced ways, creating pathways of discovery that work both backwards and forward across the span of pages. The pages themselves decrease in size as the reader moves on, evoking the sense that the book is naturally evolving in response to its contemplation. In Theorem, superb production values promote a rich and satisfying materiality, even while every decision clearly involved the practice of distillation to essence.
—Martha Tedeschi, director, Harvard Art Museums
Books about self-discovery often culminate in a revelation, which readers may find temporarily satisfying. But what happens after that? In Theorem—which is a wonderful collaboration between Elizabeth Bradfield and Antonia Contro—Bradfield’s words and Contro’s images open up another possibility. The revelation is not in arriving at a destination but in beginning to map the journey, as well as in recognizing that one’s perspective of past events changes as time goes by. In Theorem text and image follows each other, inviting the reader to go back and forth. This going back and forth, this rumination, suggests revelation is to begin rather than to arrive, to search rather than to answer. This is the enigma of being alive and alert. This is what Theorem offers the willing reader—a place to return to in order to set out again and see that the book has changed.
—John Yau, poet, critic, and curator
As soon as they committed to collaborating, the perfect pairing of Bradfield and Contro’s aesthetic sensibilities—rigorous, spare, redolent—began to materialize on paper. Consummate artists with unquestionable command of their separate vocabularies, their barrier-free interplay of words and images provokes associations, connected yet never literal, accessible but fluid. “I’m still trying to map it,” Bradfield writes at some point. Me too. Just as it should be.
—Philip Yenawine, former Director of Education, Museum of Modern Art, co-founder of Visual Thinking Strategies