Mark Bradford

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Mark Bradford
Bradford in 2016
Born (1961-11-20) November 20, 1961 (age 59)
Alma materCalifornia Institute of the Arts
Known forabstract painting, performance art
Notable work
Pickett's Charge (2017), Bell Tower (LAX) (2017), Yellow Bird (2012), Helter Skelter I (2007), Los Moscos (2004)
MovementContemporary Art
AwardsMacArthur Genius Award, US Department of State Medal of Arts, Bucksbaum Award

Mark Bradford (born November 20,[1] 1961) is an American artist living and working in Los Angeles.

Early life and education[edit]

Bradford was born and raised in South Los Angeles.[2] His mother rented a beauty salon in Leimert Park.[3][4] Bradford moved with his family to a largely white neighborhood in Santa Monica when he was 11, but his mother still maintained her business in the old neighborhood.[3] Bradford worked in her shop at times.[5] When Bradford graduated high school, he obtained his hairdresser's license and went to work at his mother's salon.

Bradford began his studies at the California Institute of the Arts in 1991 at the age of 30.[6] He earned a BFA in 1995 and an MFA in 1997.[7]


Bradford is known for grid-like abstract paintings combining collage with paint.

In 2015, Mark 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. For this, Bradford applied dense layers of vibrantly coloured paper, paint, and rope. He sanded, peeled, stripped, and cut away from the wall to create a vivid and textured composition.

The same year, Bradford created Waterfall (2015) for his exhibition titled Be Strong Boquan at Hauser & Wirth, 18th Street, New York. Waterfall is composed of remnants of paper and rope that were peeled away from a pull painting, whose surface was built up by layering canvas with alternating sheets of billboard paper and rope. Through the process of pulling string across the canvas, Bradford created long fibrous ribbons of coloured paper that revealed the archaeology of its host.

In 2012, Bradford narrated the soundtrack to the 30-minute, site-specific dance duet Framework by choreographer Benjamin Millepied in conjunction with the show The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.[8]

Bradford's practice also encompasses video, print, and installation.[9] 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, an exhibition of contemporary art commemorating Hurricane Katrina.[10] That same year, he created an installation inspired by Hurricane Katrina on the roof of the Steve Turner Contemporary Gallery, across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[11]

Bradford's 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. According to Maxwell Heller in The Brooklyn Rail, it

calls to mind the charred and shattered windshields of cars burned in riots—black, webbed with streaks of light, sleek. If studied section by section, it offers traces of the artist's sensual, tactile process, revealing delicate layers of found material sliced and sanded, lacquered and pasted until transformed.[12]

Bradford's collage Orbit (2007), contains a magazine image of a basketball placed at the heart of a dense lattice of Los Angeles streets. Created by the cumulative and subtractive processes of 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 its structural integrity. Bradford's improvisational command of these large areas suggests the formidable energy of mass consumption and, perhaps more importantly, its counterpart, the mass generation of detritus. The image recalls Basquiat's iconographies of black sports heroes, but Bradford's treatment is far more ambivalent; after all, is the dream connoted by the basketball a beacon of hope or a false promise of the easiest exit from the inner city?

In 2014, Bradford created a large-scale work for the Tom Bradley International Terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport titled “Bell Tower” is a “huge, four-sided work, made from wood, and covered with colour printed paper – bringing to mind the hand-bill covered wooden sidings that have inspired Bradford throughout his career.”[13]

Throughout Bradford's career, he has collected ‘merchant posters’ which are 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.”[14]

Of the process, Bradford says, "I decided to make a three-dimensional painting that doesn't have a frame around it. It's the same fragments of paper, just less formal. It's part sculpture, part painting—an in-between thing."

Other projects[edit]

In advance of the inaugural Los Angeles edition of the Frieze Art Fair, in January 2019, it was announced that 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 who are transitioning back home from prison.[15] Bradford was the first artist since the Fund's establishment to directly support the organization with proceeds from the sale of his artwork, and the initiative raised more than $1 million.[16]

In December 2018, a monumental new commission by Bradford 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 as its point of departure the powerful influence of technology on communication.[17]

In October 2018, an image of Here, a mixed media on canvas work by Bradford was featured on the Order of Service for Princess Eugenie of York's wedding to Jack Brooksbank. The artwork was also displayed on the colorful sashes worn by the bridesmaids and pageboys in the wedding party.[18]

In 2009, the Getty Museum invited Bradford to do a project of his choice with its education department. He chose teachers rather than students as his primary audience, bringing 10 other artists – including Michael Joo, Catherine Opie, Amy Sillman, and Kara Walker – to collaborate in developing a set of free lesson plans for K-12 teachers.[19]

Art + Practice[edit]

In 2013, Mark Bradford, the philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton, and neighbourhood activist Allan Dicastro established Art + Practice, an organization based in Leimert Park that encourages engagement with the arts. Additionally, via a collaborator it supports local 18- to 24-year-olds who are transitioning out of foster care. Bradford, DiCastro and Norton are long-term residents of South Los Angeles and have 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 age youth, stressing the importance of creative activity and practical skills for personal transformation and social change.

Most recently, on February 2, 2019, Art + Practice opened Time is Running Out of Time: Experimental Film and Video from the L.A. Rebellion and Today, a presentation of early short works of Black filmmakers and video artists in Los Angeles.

On February 24, 2018, Art + Practice opened Maren Hassinger: The Spirit of Things, a comprehensive survey exhibition presenting sculptures made over four decades by Maren Hassinger. Her sculpture has incorporated common materials associated with manufacturing, mass media, and commerce. In abstract compositions such as those that are currently on view at Art + Practice, she transforms wire rope, newspapers, plastic bags and more into evocations of the beauty found in conditions often dismissed as blighted or marginal.

On November 12, 2016, Art + Practice presented Fred Eversley: Black, White, Gray, a singular body of work produced over more than four decades. His work considers materials, light, and the optical qualities of shapes and colors as part of a broad investigation of individual perceptual experience. Alex Da Corte: A Season in He’ll opened June 9, 2016, marking Da Corte's first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. The exhibition comprised a survey of recent videos within a site-specific installation. A Shape That Stands Up opened on May 19, 2016. Influenced in part by the controversial 1978 exhibition Bad Painting (organized by Marcia Tucker for the New Museum in New York), the exhibition's title was inspired by an ongoing series of drawings by artist Amy Sillman.

John Outterbridge: Rag Man opened at Art + Practice on December 8, 2015. The exhibition presented work made during the past decade by the Los Angeles-based assemblage artist John Outterbridge.[20] The first exhibition at the Art + Practice gallery space on South Leimert Boulevard, opened February 28, 2015 and showcased new work by L.A.-based conceptual artist Charles Gaines (artist). The show was held in conjunction with the Hammer Museum survey of early works, "Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989", which went on view at the Westwood Museum, Los Angeles, on February 7, 2015.

Personal life[edit]

Bradford is gay, and sometimes incorporates ideas of masculinity and gender in his work.[21]


On October 1, 2019, Hauser & Wirth opened, ‘Cerberus’, the artist's first exhibition in the gallery's London space. The exhibition consists of nine large-scale paintings and a video titled, “Dancing in the Street.” The title of the exhibition is based on the mythological figure of Cerberus, the three-headed dog from Greek mythology that guards the entryway to Hades.[22] The exhibition will be open through December 21, 2019.

On July 27, 2019 the Long Museum in Shanghai, China opened 'Mark Bradford: Los Angeles', the artist's largest exhibition in China to date. The exhibition featured a new, site-specific sculpture, “Float,” in response to the museum's architecture, as well as a series of large-scale paintings about the Watts riots that took place in Los Angeles in 1965. The Long Museum agreed to make admission to Los Angeles free to the public throughout the duration of the exhibition.[23]

In September 2018, The Baltimore Museum of Art opened Tomorrow Is Another Day, a re-staging of Bradford's exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 57th International Art Exhibition. As part of the exhibition, Bradford collaborated with children and staff from the Greenmount West Community Center to silkscreen merchandise on sale in a permanent pop-up shop in the museum. One hundred percent of the proceeds go directly back to the center.[24]

In December 2017, it was announced that Bradford would inaugurate Hauser & Wirth's gallery space in Hong Kong with a body of new work.[25] The exhibition, which opened March 27, 2018 comprised a number of new large-scale paintings as well as works that incorporate merchant posters found on the streets.

Mark Bradford: New Works, Bradford's first gallery exhibition in his hometown of Los Angeles in over 15 years, opened on February 17, 2018. Featuring ten new works, the exhibition continued his investigations into the technical and sociopolitical potentials of abstract painting. Among the paintings on view was Moody Blues for Jack Whitten (2018), a composition of lines and shades of blue that Bradford initiated before the death of his friend Jack Whitten, and completed for this exhibition.[26]

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. This work is based directly on the Gettysburg Cyclorama, a monumental installation at Gettysburg National Military Park which 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.

Earlier that May, The Baltimore Museum of Art and The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, presented Mark Bradford as the representative for the United States at La Biennale di Venezia 57th International Art Exhibition. Bradford's exhibition, titled 'Tomorrow Is Another Day', garnered extensive critical acclaim and Bradford was lauded as 'our Jackson Pollock'.[27]

In conjunction with the U.S. Pavilion exhibition, Bradford embarked on a six-year collaboration with Venice nonprofit social cooperative Rio Terà dei Pensieri,[28] which provides employment opportunities to men and women incarcerated in Venice who create artisanal goods and other products and supports their re-integration into society. Titled Process Collettivo, the Rio Terà dei Pensieri/Bradford collaboration aims to launch a sustainable longterm program that brings awareness to both the penal system and the success of the social cooperative model. A storefront, located in the heart of Venice at San Polo 2599a, is the initial manifestation of the collaboration, and is open to the public in conjunction with the La Biennale di Venezia.

In 2015 Bradford unveiled Elgin Gardens, a special commission for 1221 Avenue of the Americas at Rockefeller Center, New York NY. In 2015 Bradford presented 'Scorched Earth', at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles CA. ('Scorched Earth' was subsequently moved to The Broad museum.[29]) The exhibition showcased a suite of new paintings, a multimedia and a major painting on the Lobby Wall. In June 2015 'Mark Bradford: Sea Monsters', toured to Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Netherlands from the Rose Art Museum (2014) September and in January 2015 and he presented "Tears of a Tree", a new body of work at The Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, China.

In 2014, Bradford presented The King's Mirror, a 100-feet-long mural which consists of 300 individual works mounted on plywood each measuring 22 by 28 inches and which remained in situ at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University for a year.[30]

In Fall 2014, Bradford's sculpture Bell Tower – which is modelled after a Jumbotron screen[31] – was unveiled at Tom Bradley International Terminal of the Los Angeles International Airport, suspended above a passenger security screening area on the mezzanine level of the terminal.

For one day only in August 2013, Project Hermés, a work by Mark Bradford installed in a private home in La Jolla, California, opened to the public before the building was eventually demolished.[32]

Bradford has participated in the 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012) and has previously exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012),[33][34] the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2011),[35] the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2011),[36] at Ohio State University (2010), the Carnegie Museum of Art (2008),[37] Sikkema Jenkins Gallery, Street Level (2007) at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, at the Wexner Center for the Arts, USA Today at the Royal Academy in London, 'In Site' at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Centro Cultural de Tijuana, 'ARCO 2003' in Madrid and in the Sao Paulo Biennial (2006), Whitney Biennial (2006), Liverpool Biennial (2006).

In 2001, Thelma Golden included Bradford's hairdressing end-paper collages Enter and Exit the New Negro (2000)[38] and 'Dreadlocks caint tell me shit' (2000) in the breakthrough 'Freestyle' exhibition of 28 African American artists at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The use of hairdressing endpapers alludes to Bradford's former career working as a hairdresser in his mother's hair salon in Leimert Park, South Los Angeles. On the material, he says, 'I liked the end papers. I liked the social fabric they represented, and so I built this vocabulary, using only paper.'

In 1998, Bradford had a solo show, Distribution, at L.A.'s Deep River, a gallery started by artist Daniel Joseph Martinez and artist Glenn Kaino.[39]

Honors and awards[edit]

In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named him among the fifty heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people”.[40][41]

In April 2019, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that Mark Bradford would join over 200 other individuals as the academy's class of 2019 honorees.[42] The induction took place in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 12, 2019.

In November 2018, Bradford, Allan DiCastro and Eileen Harris Norton were recognized for their work with Art + Practice at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden's annual New York gala.

In November 2017, Bradford was honored as WSJ magazine's Art Innovator at their annual Innovator Awards.[43] In 2016, Bradford was awarded the High Museum of Art's David C. Driskell Prize.

In 2014, Bradford was presented with the US Department of State's Medal of Arts. In 2013 he was elected as a National Academician by the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York.

He is also a recipient of a grant from the MacArthur Fellows Program (2009) (also called the "MacArthur Genius Award").[44] the Wexner Center Residency Award (2009);[45] the Bucksbaum Award, granted by The Whitney Museum of American Art (2006); the United States Artists fellowship (2006), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003), the Nancy Graves Foundation Grant (2002), and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2002).[46]

Art market[edit]

In March 2018, Helter Skelter I, a monumental painting sold for US$12 million, an artist record and the highest-ever auction price achieved by a living African American artist, based on sales results from Phillips and previous auction data.[47]

In 2015 Bradford's mixed-media collage abstract "Constitution IV" (2013) was sold for $5.8 million at Phillips, an auction high for the artist, just months after 'Smear' (2015) was sold for $4.4 million, (the upper estimate was $700,000) at Sotheby's New York NY.[48] The artist has been exclusively represented by Hauser & Wirth since 2015; he had previously shown with Sikkema Jenkins & Co. and White Cube.


Bradford was profiled on 60 Minutes, in an interview done by Anderson Cooper, which originally aired on May 12, 2019,[49] and in September 2020, CBS News received a News & Documentary Emmy Award News & Documentary Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Arts, Culture and Entertainment Report.[50]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Cornelia Butler and Katie Siegel, Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and Prestel, New York, 2015
  • Clara M. Kim, Larys Frogier and Doryun Chong, Mark Bradford: Tears of a Tree, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, and Verlag für Moderne Kunst Nurnberg, 2015
  • Christopher Bedford, Katy Siegel, Peter James Hudson, Anita Hill, Sarah Lewis and Zadie Smith, Mark Bradford: Tomorrow is Another Day, Gregory R. Miller, New York, and American Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2017
  • Stéphane Aquin and Evelyn Hankins, Mark Bradford, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2018
  • Anita Hill, Sebastian Smee, Cornelia Butler, Mark Bradford, Phaidon Press, London, 2018

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mark Bradford - Interview Magazine". Interview Magazine. 2017-06-12. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  2. ^ Holland Cotter. "Tracking Racial Identity, But Not Defined by It". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b Hardy, Earnest (11 June 2006). "The Eye Of L.A. / Mark Bradford". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 June 2006.
  4. ^ Miranda, Carolina. "After traveling the world, L.A. artist Mark Bradford gets a solo show in his hometown". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  5. ^ Dorothy Spears (December 12, 2010). "Hoop Dreams of His Own Design". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  6. ^ Charmaine Picard. "Mark Bradford on class and identity in South Central LA". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  7. ^ "Mark Bradford". Art21.
  8. ^ Laura Bleiberg. "Benjamin Millepied collaborating with Mark Bradford at MOCA". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 June 2010.
  9. ^ Mark Bradford, White Cube.
  10. ^ Thomas H. Maugh II. "Artist Mark Bradford, USC's Elyn Saks win MacArthur grants". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
  11. ^ Christopher Knight. "Mark Bradford's post-Katrina ark for New Orleans". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 September 2008.
  12. ^ Maxwell Heller. "The Mark Bradford Show". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  13. ^ "Did you spot Mark Bradford at the airport? | Art | Agenda". Phaidon. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  14. ^ "Mark Bradford | Art | Phaidon Store". Phaidon. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  15. ^ "Mark Bradford Teams With Art for Justice at Frieze". artnet News. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Towering achievement: Morse code-inspired sculpture lights up the sky at UCSD". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Eugenie & Jack's Bridesmaids and Pageboys Wore Less Traditional Looks Than Meghan & Harry's". Harper's Bazaar. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  19. ^ Jori Finkel. "Mark Bradford leads Kara Walker, Cathy Opie and more to create online teacher resource for Getty". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 June 2010.
  20. ^ Carolina Miranda. "Mark Bradford's Art + Practice to bring art, social services to Leimert". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  21. ^ "Mark Bradford's Pride of Place". Aperture Foundation NY. 2016-09-20. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Mary Carole McCauley. "Greenmount West kids get silk-screening lesson from art superstar Mark Bradford". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  25. ^ Anny Shaw. "Mark Bradford to launch Hauser & Wirth's Hong Kong gallery". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
  26. ^ Mark Bradford: New Works
  27. ^ Andrew Goldstein. "Mark Bradford Is Our Jackson Pollock: Thoughts on His Stellar U.S. Pavilion at the Venice Biennale". artnet News. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  28. ^ Eve Macsweeney. "Mark Bradford's Got A Brand New Bag". Vogue. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  29. ^ "Scorched Earth". The Broad. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  30. ^ Charlotte Burns. "Mark Bradford maps exploitation at the Rose Art Museum". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
  31. ^ Christopher Michno (March 27, 2013), Mark Bradford: Texting While Painting Artillery.
  32. ^ Helen Stoilas. "Collector's difficult neighbour inspires artist Mark Bradford's installation". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 1 August 2003.
  33. ^ "Mark Bradford". SFMOMA.
  34. ^ "ROUNDTABLE announces participants". e-flux.
  35. ^ "Mark Bradford". ICA Boston.
  36. ^ "Mark Bradford". MCA Chicago.
  37. ^ Nicole J. Caruth. "Life on Mars: Carnegie International 2008". Art21. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
  38. ^ Holland Cotter (2010-12-24). "Tracking Racial Identity, But Not Defined by It". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  39. ^ Jackson, Brian Keith (September 20, 2007). "How I Made It: Mark Bradford". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2020-08-03.
  40. ^ "Queerty Pride50 2020 Honorees". Queerty. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  41. ^ Tracer, Daniel (2020-06-26). "Meet 6 Black trailblazers fighting racism: "I didn't come to play; I came to dismantle white supremacy."". Queerty. Retrieved 2020-06-30.
  42. ^
  43. ^ Howie Kahn. "Mark Bradford Caps Off a Banner Year With His Largest Work to Date". WSJ. magazine. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  44. ^ Christopher Knight. "L.A. artist Mark Bradford wins MacArthur Fellowship". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  45. ^ Mark Bradford White Cube.
  46. ^ Painters and Sculptors Grant Program Recipients Joan Mitchell Foundation.
  47. ^ Eileen Kinsella. "Eli Broad's Museum Is the Buyer of the Record-Setting $12 Million Mark Bradford Painting". artnet News. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  48. ^ Scott Reyburn. "A Rothko Tops Sotheby's Contemporary Art Auction". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  49. ^ "Mark Bradford: The "60 Minutes" interview". CBS News. May 12, 2019. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  50. ^

External links[edit]