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*Mark Bradford was born on this date in 1961. He is a Black gay artist born and raised in Leimert Park in South Los Angeles. Bradford moved with his family to a predominantly white neighborhood in Santa Monica when he was 11, but his mother still maintained her business in the old community. His mother rented a beauty salon in Leimert Park. Bradford worked in her shop at times.
When he graduated high school, he obtained his hairdresser's license and went to work at his mother's salon. Bradford began his studies at Santa Monica College and then transferred to the California Institute of the Arts, graduating in 1991. He earned a BFA in 1995 and an MFA in 1997. Bradford is known for grid-like abstract paintings combining collage with paint. His works are made of layers of paper and cords, which he carves into using various tools and techniques, including gouging, tearing, shredding, gluing, power-washing, and sanding.
He sometimes incorporates ideas of masculinity and gender in his work, drawing on his experiences as a gay man. Throughout Bradford's career, he has collected 'merchant posters,' printed sheets advertising services and posted in neighborhoods. According to critic Sebastian Smee, "The posters advertised cheap transitional housing, foreclosure prevention, food assistance, debt relief, wigs, jobs, DNA-derived paternity testing, gun shows, and quick cash, as well as legal advice for immigrants, child custody, and divorce."
In 2006, Bradford painted 'Scorched Earth' and 'Black Wall Street,' based on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. Bradford's collage Orbit (2007) contains a magazine image of a basketball at the heart of a dense lattice of Los Angeles streets. Created by the cumulative and subtractive collage and décollage, layered with paint, Orbit appears as an aerial view of a contorting, mutating, and decaying city whose tiny, intricate street grids can no longer maintain their structural reliability.
His A Truly Rich Man is One Whose Children Run into His Arms Even When His Hands Are Empty (2008) is nearly 9 feet wide and 9 feet tall. His practice also encompasses video, print, and installation. His installation, Mithra (2008), is a 70 x 20 x 25 ft ark constructed from salvaged plywood barricade fencing. He shipped it to New Orleans for Prospect New Orleans, a contemporary art exhibition commemorating Hurricane Katrina. That same year, he created an installation inspired by Hurricane Katrina on the Steve Turner Contemporary Gallery roof, across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was restaged at 55th Carnegie International.
In 2009, the Getty Museum invited him to do a project of his choice with its education department. He chose teachers rather than students as his primary audience, bringing ten other artists, including Michael Joo, Catherine Opie, Amy Sillman, and Kara Walker, to develop free lesson plans for K-12 teachers. In 2012, Bradford narrated the soundtrack to the 30-minute, site-specific dance duet Framework by choreographer Benjamin Millepied in conjunction with The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. Art + Practice In 2013, Mark Bradford, the philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton, and neighborhood activist Allan Dicastro established
Art + Practice is an organization based in Leimert Park that encourages engagement with the arts. Additionally, a collaborator supports local 18- to 24-year-olds transitioning out of foster care via a collaborator. As long-term residents of South Los Angeles, they've witnessed first-hand how a lack of educational and social resources can affect the community. The trio created Art + Practice as a developmental platform for transitional youth, stressing the importance of creative activity and practical skills for personal transformation and social change.
In 2014, Bradford created a large-scale work for the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport titled "Bell Tower ."In 2015, he unveiled Elgin Gardens, a special commission for 1221 Avenue of the Americas at Rockefeller Center, New York, NY. Also, in 2015, Bradford created Pull Painting 1, a site-specific wall drawing inspired by Sol LeWitt along a 60-foot wall in the Wadsworth Atheneum, as part of the museum's MATRIX 172 program. Bradford applied dense layers of vibrantly colored paper, paint, and rope for this. He sanded, peeled, stripped, and cut away from the wall to create the textured composition.
He made Waterfall (2015) for Be Strong Boquan at Hauser & Wirth, 18th Street, New York the same year. Waterfall comprises remnants of paper and rope peeled away from a pull painting, whose surface was built up by layering canvas with alternating sheets of billboard paper and rope. Through pulling string across the canvas, Bradford created long fibrous ribbons of colored paper that revealed the archaeology of its host. Also, Bradford made '150 Portrait Tone', a wall painting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The mural features the text of the 911 call by Philando Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. According to LACMA's website, 'The title, 150 Portrait Tone, refers to the name and color code of the pink acrylic used throughout the painting. Like the now-obsolete "flesh" crayon in the Crayola 64 box (renamed "peach" in 1962), the color "portrait tone" carries inherent assumptions about who, exactly, is being depicted. In the context of Bradford's painting, the title presents a sobering commentary on power and representation.'
In 2017, he installed 'We the People' at the U.S. Embassy in London. Featuring fragments and full articles of the U.S. Constitution, the large painting is made of 32 separate canvas that occupies an entire wall in the atrium of the embassy. In conjunction with the 2017 U.S. Pavilion, Bradford embarked on a six-year collaboration with Venice nonprofit social cooperative Rio Terà Dei Pensieri. It provides employment opportunities to men and women incarcerated in Venice who create artisanal goods and other products and supports their reintegration into society.
In November 2017, Bradford presented Pickett's Charge, a monumental cyclorama of paintings commissioned by the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. It depicts Pickett's Charge, the climactic assault in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. At 400 linear feet of wall space, the installation is Bradford's largest site-specific work to date. In October 2018, his image of Here, a mixed media on canvas work, was featured on the Order of Service for Princess Eugenie of York's wedding.
The artwork was also displayed on the colorful sashes worn by the bridesmaids and pageboys at the wedding party. In December 2018, his commission was unveiled at the University of California, San Diego Stuart Collection. Entitled "WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT," the 195-foot-tall work is the tallest structure on the campus and takes the powerful influence of technology on communication as its point of departure. Before the inaugural Los Angeles edition of the Frieze Art Fair in January 2019, Bradford had created a unique image of a police body camera entitled "Life-Size." Proceeds from sales of this limited-edition print series went directly to Agnes Gund's Art for Justice Fund to help support greater career opportunities for people transitioning back home from prison. Since the Fund's establishment, Bradford was the first artist to directly support the organization with proceeds from selling his artwork, and the initiative raised more than $1 million.