Mark Bradford, a much beloved and collected painter, is an ingenius Angeleno whose first LA solo show, Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth, is on view at the Hammer through September 27, 2015. A MacArthur Genius awardee who is a suprising 6'7" tall, Bradford grew up in Leirmert Park where he famously helped out in his mother's beauty salon. He received a full scholarship to California Institute of the Arts, and has developed a body of work that explores "strategies of mapping and the psychogeogrphay of the city he calls home." (from the Hammer website). Bradford's attachment to his neighborhood has led to a local project, the creation of a studio space called Art + Practice, that aims to empower foster youth and stregthen community through contemporary art. We wrote about it here, in our recent story about Leimert Park.
Photo by Catherine Opie
Here is a recent New Yorker story about Bradford's life and work that is worth a read to understand the depth of his thinking and commitment to craft, and to Los Angeles. The article chronicles his childhood and indoctrination into his art, and provides appealingly insights such as the fact that he uses only paint that can be found at Home Depot and that he moves like a dancer, despite his lanky frame.
Beyond all these lofty reasons to admire Bradford is the simple fact that his art is beautiful and emotionally accessible. He layers paint and paper in an appealing tactile fashion and the results, though usually abstract, are gorgeous.
Lights and Tunnels
For the Hammer's lobby exhibition, Bradford created a pastel-colored map of the U.S. by sanding back paint from the previous installations. As the turquoise and green colored layers appear, he pays homage to the dozens of artists who have also created site-specific murals on the Hammer walls. The installation is called Finding Barry because his friend, artist Barry McGee was the first artist to create a work of art on the wall, and the sanding symbolically and literally searches back through time to find his friend's work.
"In Scorched Earth, Bradford uses his characteristic painting style, building up rich surfaces that map the terrain—political, emotional and actual—that he inhabits as an artist influenced by feminist and queer politics and as a social activist living in Los Angeles. Museum visitors will be greeted by a large-scale image of the United States map excavated from the lobby wall representing the percentage of the population living with AIDS per state, as of 2009. Bradford selected 2009 census data for the map, purposely using outdated statistics as a metaphor for how we receive but never really fully comprehend the massiveness of these kinds of numbers and information. Reflecting on the AIDS epidemic and the parallels with the recent Ebola crisis, Bradford is interested in the how the media obfuscates our understanding of crisis through disinformation and misrepresentation. Bradford is interested in imagining these abstract statistics and the historical distance and memory of the AIDS epidemic then, and how we think about the body in crisis at the current moment in history. " (Quoted from the Hammer's printed materials about the show).
The Next Hot Line
KCET has done several excellent stories about Bradford and Art + Practice. And this PBS special is an excellent hour-long program that shows Bradford at work in his studio and offers a glimpse of process from previous projects.
Rebuild South Central
Bradford will appear at the Hammer on August 2nd in conversation with Anita Hill and the musuem has a series of screenings focused on the concerns explored in Bradford's art, including documentaries about the 1992 riots and the Watts Rebellion. Click here for programming details.
Close Encounters: Work It! Building Art from the Ground Up
Sunday, June 28, 11am-1pm
Art is more than just a few brushstrokes. A single painting can be made up of multiple surfaces that an artist builds over time. Join the artists Flora Kao and Leanne Lee in creating multilayered works of art inspired by the exhibition Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth. Designed for adults and kids ages 5 and up, these lively drop-in programs encourage families to look closely at art, experiment, and create together.