18 June 2018

    Beauty in the ugliness: Exploring Mark Bradford’s art

    Reflections on race, class and politics.

    Created from layers and layers of found materials – Mark Bradford’s abstract works explore the intersection of gender, race and class in American society. The celebrated African American artist finds power in the everyday. Using everything from posters to hairdresser’s endpapers – a remnant from his previous career as a hairdresser (and a childhood spent in his mother’s South Central LA hair salon) he creates powerful and emotive mixed media art.

    “I was always creative. I just never named that place—a lot of times, black folks are just doing things, they’re not naming things. My mom could whip up the hair; my friend could sing real good; my other friend could sew. We were just doing our thing”.

    Mark Bradford, Los Angeles, 2017

    For Bradford, the connection with place and time binds his work to the urban environment. Creating his pieces he meticulously sands and scratches through the layers and the grit to reveal the unexpected beauty.

    Last year at the Venice Biennale he explored America’s uncomfortable history, using stones and gravel to recreate Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation in Virginia, making visitors enter through a side door just as the plantation slaves had to.

    Mark Bradford, Mithra, 2008, mixed Media, 2134 x 610 x 762 cm, installation view at Prospect. 1, New Orleans, 2008.

    Bradford’s reflections on inequality and political power have become even an more vital voice in these times and it is a role that he embraces – “I didn’t sign up to be an artist to be appropriate. I’m not interested in the status quo” he says.

    Documenting the full spectrum of his work from canvas to videos and installations Mark Bradford is the latest book in Phaidon’s Contemporary Artists series offering an in-depth look at his work to date. Explore some of the artist’s most memorable pieces below and find out more on the Phaidon website.

    Mark Bradford, Niagara, 2005, video, colour, 3 min. 17 sec.

    Mark Bradford, The Devil Is Beating His Wife, 2003, Billboard paper, photomechanical reproductions, permanent-wave end papers, stencils and mixed media on plywood, 335 x 610 cm.

    Mark Bradford, Medusa, 2005, acrylic paint, paper, rope and caulk, Leucosia, 2016 mixed media on canvas, 259 x 366 cm, installation view at the Venice Biennale, 2017.