Known for his expansive multi-layered collaged paintings incorporating materials found in the urban environment, Mark Bradford’s work addresses spontaneous systems and networks that materialize within cities, such as alternative economic exchange, itinerant communities, and other socio-political pathways.
Visually complex and often cartographic in form, Bradford’s paintings incorporate elements of the everyday – from end papers used for perming hair (associated with his background in hairdressing) to remnants of billboard posters, polyester cord, caulking, bleaching agents and carbon paper. Using such materials gathered within the locale of his studio in South Central Los Angeles, Bradford’s paintings are ostensibly abstract in a formal sense, but referential in content.
Bradford is less concerned with a commentary on consumerism, than with the specific conditions that shape communities – these works are what he terms as ‘merchant posters’ found in his immediate neighborhood. Affixed to cyclone fencing, erected around buildings left derelict after the 1992 Los Angeles riots, these billposters advertise, in bold graphics, services targeted directly at local inhabitants. The topics – ranging from foreclosure and paternity testing to loan credit and pest control – coalesce to form a narrative of desolation and, as Bradford has observed, reveal ‘the invisible underbelly of a community’. In ‘A Thousand Daddies’, for example, multiple billboards advertising child custody services provide the foundation, with the letters broadly outlined in cord, over which layers of other posters and paper are pasted before being sanded back in part. This process of décollage or accretion reveals glimpses of luminous color from the notices buried within.
Bradford’s practice also encompasses video, prints and sculptural installations.
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