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Spotlight on Paradox: Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford, <i>Black Venus</i>, detail, 2005. Mixed-media collage, 130 x 196 inches. Courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles, California in 1961. He received a BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Bradford transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall-sized collages and installations that respond to the impromptu networks “underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public space” that emerge within a city. Drawing from the diverse cultural and geographic makeup of his southern Californian community, Bradford’s work is as informed by his personal background as a third- generation merchant there as it is by the tradition of abstract painting developed worldwide in the 20th Century. Bradford’s videos and map-like, multilayered paper collages refer not only to the organization of streets and buildings in downtown Los Angeles, but also to images of crowds, ranging from civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s to contemporary protests concerning immigration issues. Mark Bradford has received many awards, including the Bucksbaum Award (2006); the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003); and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2002). He has been included in major exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2006); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2003); REDCAT, Los Angeles (2004); and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001). He has participated in the XXVII S√£o Paulo Bienal (2006); the Whitney Biennial (2006); and inSite: Art Practices in the Public Domain, San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico (2005). Bradford lives and works in Los Angeles.

Watch a clip from Bradford’s Art:21 segment:

About his work, Bradford says,

“An artist has a choice to be as political or as apolitical as anyone else who’s making choices. So I don’t think an artist is necessarily apolitical if he or she doesn’t make overtly political work. But so much of contemporary art is engaged in the ideas that are circulating in the atmosphere, in the press and the media, and oftentimes we’re influenced by that. So it seems comfortable to me to have that bleed into my work. For me, the subtext is always political.”

(taken from the companion book Art in the Twenty-First Century 4, pp. 132-3).

Read more about his work and watch additional clips on his Art:21 webpage here.

Have you experienced Bradford’s work in person, or did you have an opportunity to view his segment in one of the hundreds of Art21 Access ’07 events that have been taking place all month? Share your thoughts on Mark Bradford by leaving a comment below.

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