Mr. Mark Bradford, a Southern Californian native, is the master of multimedia abstract art built upon the deconstruction and amalgamation of materials. He layers words, paint, color, materials, texture, sound and image to author stories of emotional, cultural and political content. His process starts simply, “I start to imagine what it points to and that’s when my imagination really goes.”
Bradford studied at the California Institute of the Arts, graduating with an MFA in 1997. “My practice is décollage and collage at the same time. Décollage: I take it away; collage: I immediately add it right back. It’s almost like a rhythm. I’m a builder and a demolisher. I put up so I can tear down. I’m a speculator and a developer. In archaeological terms, I excavate, and I build at the same time,” he shares in an Art21 interview. The activities and byproducts of these spaces are instrumental in his process.
These intersecting influences derive from his childhood. His mother owned a hair salon which he contributed to with signage and other projects. His mother and grandmother were seamstresses that had multiple projects happening simultaneously. He pretended to dig for dinosaur bones in the backyard. And the written words from books and poetry he devoured powerfully combined and held everything together. Words can pour into any artistic vessel.
His works are large, wall-size collages and installations that reflect the nuances of life within a small community that is part of a larger metropolitan ecosystem. Some of his artistic conversations include underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public space. His work resembles maps. His grid outlined, multilayered paper collages refer to organizational systems of inanimate buildings and streets to crowds of people occupying some of the same networks of streets and buildings such as in demonstration formats during the 1960’s civil rights movements as well as today.
The continued pursuit for equality remains a topic he explores. For instance, one of his site-specific installations discusses the atrocities and struggles of race and poverty. He displayed pieces of wood salvaged from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on top of Los Angeles building, spelling out “HELP US,” recalling the desperation of hurricane survivors on New Orleans rooftops. In 2017, Bradford represented the United States pavilion at the Venice Biennale with his work Tomorrow is Another Day. Watch this video to learn more from his lips about this experience and read this article about its controversial content.
His tone is consistent across all of his artistic medium, video,print, and installation, whether they are singular or collaborative. In 2012, Bradford narrated the soundtrack to the 30-minute, site-specific dance duet Framework by choreographer Benjamin Millepied in conjunction with the show The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Learn more about Framework here.
The global community continues to listen, view and intellectually comprehend his work with no end in sight. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, all have his work in their permanent collections. Tangential to increasing museum exhibition and collector purchases are Mr. Bradford’s awards.
The long and earned list includes the Bucksbaum Award for Distinction at the 2006 Whitney Biennial and a MacArthur Fellowship (2009). His retrospective organized by the Wexner Center (2010) traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2010–11); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2011); Dallas Museum of Art (2011–12); and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012). Solo exhibitions of Bradford’s work have been held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2007), and Cincinnati Art Museum (2008), among other venues.
His work has also appeared in group shows at such institutions as the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001, 2005); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008); and Aspen Art Museum (2010). In addition to Prospect and Whitney, Bradford’s work has been also presented in the São Paulo Biennial, Busan Biennial, South Korea (2006) and most recently the Venice Biennale (2017).
He remains in his native Los Angeles. In 2014, he co-founded the art and social services space Art + Practice. As time marches on, I am assured that Mr. Bradford will continue to dissect, interpret and challenge the human condition and tell these truths and imaginative outcomes through his masterful synergistic use of mediums.
Enjoy a few more videos about Mr. Bradford’s work below:
Mark Bradford in Architectural Digest
Sexy Cash Wall ©Mark Bradford
Gatekeeper (2019) ©Mark Bradford
Neither New nor Correct: New Work ©Mark Bradford
Father You Have Murdered Me, 2012 ©The Rose Collection
Sign of the Times (2017) – ©Mark Bradford
Deep Blue (2018) – ©Mark Bradford
Cover Image ©Architectural Digest