Mark Bradford at SFMOMA
I once sat next to Mark Bradford at a dinner party after helping out with some Art:21 events at an educator conference where he was the keynote speaker. That dinner was one of my favorite moments spent with a famous artist, and I'll always remember the idea Mark and I came up with to build a "lofticle" -- a cubicle with a loft that would give worker bees extra space for napping, reading or thinking. I probably never forgot this idea because I spend a lot of time in a one-level cube imagining a ladder leading to somewhere more lofty. But it was also memorable because Mark Bradford was inspiring and kind, even to his handlers, despite his worldwide, art-star status.
At the conference, Bradford suggested radical ideas. Teachers lined up to hug him afterwards, and he later went on to write curriculum with The Getty and SFMOMA. One of his lesson plans involves writing down the lyrics to your favorite song, then cutting up and rearranging the words to convey a different meaning. This idea was influenced by his own practice, which involves lots of intricate cutting and reordering. A traveling retrospective of his work is currently on view at SFMOMA where you can see his paintings, sculptures, installations and films. He describes an early film making experience in this short video that I’ve watched many times. It represents one of the reasons why I adore Mark Bradford -- his abstract storytelling is top notch. And his stories are genuine, both verbally and visually.
The show is an expansive introduction to Bradford's oeuvre. Each piece represents a reflection of the artist's life and surroundings at the time it was made. His large-scale works are arguably collage, but he thinks of them as paintings, which makes sense when you see them in person. He works with found signage and other paper objects, using variations on (self-described) decoupage techniques to create massive, abstract works. Some pieces incorporate recognizable, time-specific snippets, such as neon bits of color from iPod billboard ads of the early 2000s. Bradford's art beautifully preserves contemporary culture, representing (sometimes literally) the signs of our times. He also uses merchant posters found on the streets of L.A., transforming them into art that speaks about commerce and social structures.
Some of the work involves serious sanding, layering, reducing and adding paper to create texture and dynamism. If you look closely and chronologically, you might notice when the artist moved from hand-sanding to power-sanding. While Bradford's work can be appreciated on any level, even at first glance, I recommend studying up. Watch the film about him on Art:21 and listen to SFMOMA's recent interviews with the artist where he talks about specific pieces, like a film of him swaggering down a street in slow motion -- it's a tribute to a character from the South Los Angeles neighborhood where he keeps a studio in the same building where his mother used to have a hair salon. He grew up working in the salon, painting signage, and later incorporating some of the materials (like the hair papers used for perms) into his work.
There is so much to appreciate about Mark Bradford that the exhibition continues across the street with another installation at YBCA. I'm headed there next and I know it will be impressive, because that's how Mark Bradford rolls.
Mark Bradford's work is on display at SFMOMA from February 18 - June 17, 2012. For more information, visit sfmoma.org.
More on Visual Arts
Noise Pop | May 24, 2013
Listen to the newest Noise Pop picks for you and your partner's listening pleasure, featuring Liars, Future Islands, Beach House, Jessie Ware, and The Weeknd. Note: this episode contains adult language and situations.
NPR Film | May 24, 2013
The indie darling returns in a winning collaboration with Noah Baumbach that tracks her developmentally arrested dancer heroine through the transition from protracted adolescence to reluctant adulthood. (Recommended) By Ella Taylor
NPR Film | May 24, 2013
Fast 6 pits Dominic's crew against a wily terrorist in a high-tech battle royale -- but it has a devil of a time explaining why everyone should hop into their cars. By Scott Tobias
The Do List | May 23, 2013
Suzie Racho and David Wiegand scout the Bay Area for things to do this coming weekend and turn up Puerto Rican flavor, a pair of poets, and much more!
Art Review | May 23, 2013
CCA's 2013 MFA show brings 75 artists together in a massive show of works spanning the range from delicate gestures to post-apocalyptic installations. By Mark Taylor
Art & Design
Basketball star Carmelo Anthony is known off the court for his signature fashion flare. Host Michel Martin speaks with his stylist, Khalilah Williams-Webb, about what goes into dressing Anthony and other high-profile clients.
America has a love/hate relationship with tattoos, but body ink is becoming more and more mainstream. Host Michel Martin speaks with Fatty, the owner of Fatty's Custom Tattooz in Washington, D.C, about America's fascination with tattoos, and the fading cultural taboos.
Engineers have figured out a way to get crystals to form rose and tulip sculptures, each smaller than a strand of hair. The gardens sprout up on a penny dipped in a salt solution. The technique is similar to 3-D printing and could one day be used to make any complex shape.
Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a 16th-century artist who liked to play with his food, transforming it into the building blocks of many of his fantastical portraits. Artist Philip Haas has taken those portraits out of museums, reinterpreting them as colossal statues that interact with the natural environment.
Also on KQED.org this week ...
KQED Science Site Relaunches
All of KQED's science and environment content is now aggregated in one place on KQED.org. Find everything from Astronomy to Zebras!
Enter the New "ImageMakers" Screening Room
Enjoy films from present and past seasons of KQED's short independent film series, divided into Animation, Comedy, Drama, and Suspense.