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b. 1961, USA

Mark Bradford Biography

Mark Bradford is a world-renowned abstract artist based in Los Angeles. He earned his BFA in 1995 when he was in his 30s, and graduated with an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts two years later.

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Bradford's art practice is inextricably linked to his personal history. Raised in a single-parent family, he moved to Santa Monica at age 11. He spent most of his formative years helping out inside his mother's beauty salon, Foxy Hair, which was situated in Los Angeles' Leimert Park neighbourhood. After high school, he attained a hairdresser's license and worked at his mother's salon. With his meagre savings from hairstyling, he spent the rest of his time immersing himself in nightclub culture—especially drag performance—both in Los Angeles and abroad, before deciding to take fine art courses at Santa Monica College.

Mesmerised by Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, as well as Robert Rauschenberg's 'combines', he realised that he would never become an easel painter. Instead, he returned to a medium he'd worked with since his childhood: end papers—the small rectangular tissues used during the perming process in salons.

Bradford's work predominantly takes the form of papier mâché painting-sculpture hybrids. The artist often incorporated singed permanent-wave end papers and cellophane used in hair dyeing in early abstract collages such as Daddy, Daddy, Daddy (2001), which is in the collection of the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York. Other found materials like commercial fliers, posters, and billboards salvaged from South Los Angeles also make their way onto his large-scale canvases. After gluing them in place until many layers are formed, he laboriously sands the surface to reveal colours and patterns.

Bradford describes his method of layering and then grinding down the surface as analogous to archaeological digging or plumbing the depths of the human psyche. In addition to 'digging', he has also introduced the technique of 'pulling' to his practice, in which ropes are embedded in the layers of paper and then pulled away. Works utilising this technique include Pull Painting 1 (2015) and Nothing about this is good (2018).

Bradford has never shied away from tackling identity politics, and the materials he uses in his works, which he describes as 'social abstraction', are loaded with connotations of race and class. Such materials include not only end papers but also, for instance, mortgage flyers targeting people with low incomes. The artworks themselves sometimes veer away from abstraction to make clear social critiques, as in Finding Barry (2015), for which the AIDS rates of different states of the United States were carved into the walls of the Hammer Museum. The video Practice (2003) taps into issues of queerness and black bodies with the artist himself filmed shooting hoops while wearing a Los Angeles Lakers shirt and a four-foot-diameter hoop skirt. Such works seek to undo the stereotype of effortless athleticism often affixed to African Americans.

Apart from working as an artist, Bradford co-founded the non-profit space Art + Practice in 2014 with social activist Allan DiCastro and collector Eileen Harris Norton. Hosting events and exhibitions, the space seeks to provide art education for children under foster care and act as an institution of contemporary art for its community. His social engagement is also evidenced in his art. In his contribution to New Orleans' Prospect.1 triennial in 2008, for example, he used posters and plywood panels to construct a boat-like sculpture entitled Mithra—a Noah's Ark for the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

In 2009, Bradford received a a 'Genius Grant' from the MacArthur Fellows Program, and in 2017, he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale with the solo exhibition Tomorrow is Another Day. The United States Pavilion's neoclassical architecture is modelled after the estate of former president Thomas Jefferson, who owned hundreds of black slaves during his life. Bradford had audiences enter the pavilion from the side—the entrance meant for servants or slaves. Inside, five exhibition rooms showcased works that combined myths, grand historical narratives and personal experiences. Spoiled Foot (2017), for instance, has a texture meant to suggest the lesions caused by AIDS, and the narrow spaces left around his works aimed to replicate the marginalisation the artist experiences.

Bradford has exhibited around the world, including a solo exhibition entitled Tears of a Tree at Shanghai's Rockbund Art Museum in 2015. He returned to Shanghai in 2019 with a series of newly commissioned artworks for his solo exhibition Los Angeles, presented at the Long Museum and curated by Diana Nawi. Among the epic works on show were Mithra (2008), the 12-metre-high pull painting Float (2019), and He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes (2019), an installation comprised of numerous globes of various sizes.

Penny Liu | Ocula | 2019

Mark Bradford Featured Artworks

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Q7 by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordQ7, 2020Mixed media on canvas
182.9 x 243.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Rising by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordRising, 2019Mixed media on canvas
175.9 x 148.9 x 5.7 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Painting 6 by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordPainting 6, 2019Mixed media on canvas
121.9 x 91.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
A Molded Pool of Stories by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordA Molded Pool of Stories, 2019Mixed media on canvas
175.2 x 148.9 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
The Loop of Deep Waters 8 by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordThe Loop of Deep Waters 8, 2014Mixed media collage
145 x 114 x 114 cm
Not for sale
Rockbund Art Museum
The Loop of Deep Waters 7 by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordThe Loop of Deep Waters 7, 2014Mixed media collage
147 x 115 x 115 cm
Not for sale
Rockbund Art Museum
The Loop of Deep Waters 6 by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordThe Loop of Deep Waters 6, 2014Mixed media collage
147 x 112 x 112 cm
Not for sale
Rockbund Art Museum
The Loop of Deep Waters 5 by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordThe Loop of Deep Waters 5, 2014Mixed media collage
147 x 113 x 113 cm
Not for sale
Rockbund Art Museum

Mark Bradford Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Beside Itself at Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong
Closed
30 April–30 June 2020 Group Exhibition Beside Itself Hauser & WirthOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Mark Bradford, Cerberus at Hauser & Wirth, London
Closed
2 October–21 December 2019 Mark Bradford Cerberus Hauser & Wirth, LondonLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Mark Bradford, Mark Bradford at Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong
Closed
27 March–12 May 2018 Mark Bradford Hauser & Wirth, Hong KongHong Kong

Mark Bradford Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles, Somerset, Gstaad, St. Moritz

Mark Bradford In Ocula Magazine

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Mark Bradford: ‘Drag that Horror Into Your Studio’ Ocula News Mark Bradford: ‘Drag that Horror Into Your Studio’ Los Angeles, 9 September 2020

The artist is showing new works made under quarantine in an online show at Hauser & Wirth.

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Matthew Armstrong on Collector Donald B. Marron Ocula Conversation Matthew Armstrong on Collector Donald B. Marron By Anna Dickie, New York

Private curator to Donald B. Marron for over two decades, Matthew Armstrong discusses working with the collector, reminiscing on the boyish enthusiasm Marron exuded when it came to art.​

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What Sold for Over $1 Million at Art Basel Online? Ocula News What Sold for Over $1 Million at Art Basel Online? London, 23 June 2020

Prices didn't reach the heights of the physical fair in 2019, but over a dozen works exceeded the million dollar mark.

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Artists Jammie Holmes, Nick Cave, and Shepard Fairey Respond to George Floyd’s Death Ocula News Artists Jammie Holmes, Nick Cave, and Shepard Fairey Respond to George Floyd’s Death New York, 2 June 2020

Holmes shared Floyd's last words on flying banners that appeared over five US cities.

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Mark Bradford In Related Press

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This Is Not America Related Press This Is Not America 18 November 2019, Art Review

ArtReview caught up with Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford in Shanghai at the launch of an exhibition titled Los Angeles, a ten-year survey of his painting, sculpture and videowork at the Long Museum, West Bund. It includes largescale sculptures such as Mithra (2008), an arklike structure created for Prospect.1 in New Orleans as a sign...

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Frieze London review, Regent's Park: the fine art of hobnobbing and showing off Related Press Frieze London review, Regent's Park: the fine art of hobnobbing and showing off 3 October 2019, Telegraph

It can be tiring traipsing around the annual Frieze London art fair in Regent's Park – which is why, when you pass Tokyo gallery Taro Nasu's booth, you may find yourself drawn to a black vending machine. If you're after refreshment, though, prepare for disappointment – because this automated device is an installation by British conceptual artist...

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Mark Bradford: The 60 Minutes Interview Related Press Mark Bradford: The 60 Minutes Interview 12 May 2019, CBS News

Mark Bradford is widely considered one of the most important and influential artists in America today. His abstract canvases, which often deal with complex social and political issues, hang in major museums around the world, and on the walls of big collectors and some small ones, like me. Bradford's art may look like paintings, but there's hardly...

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Mark Bradford Tears Up Tradition Related Press Mark Bradford Tears Up Tradition 24 June 2018, Elephant

In late 2016, when the world was still coming to terms with the reality of Trump's move into the White House (truth be told, it still hasn't fully), American artist Mark Bradford was busy conceiving a way to subvert it. The challenge? Doing so while still representing the United States at the 57th Venice Biennale.

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Mark Bradford In Video & Audio

Mark Bradford, Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong Related Video & Audio Mark Bradford, Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong 27 March 2018, Hauser & Wirth

The inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, a presentation of new works by the acclaimed American artist Mark Bradford renowned for his large, abstract, mixed-media paintings, which often incorporate ephemera and discarded elements of urban life. On view from 27 March–12 May 2018, the exhibition spans both 15 th and 16 th stories...

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Mark Bradford. New Works, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles Related Video & Audio Mark Bradford. New Works, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles 17 February 2018, Hauser & Wirth

Mark Bradford. New Works is the artist’s first gallery exhibition in his hometown of Los Angeles in over 15 years. The ten new works on view find Mark Bradford furthering his investigations into the technical and sociopolitical potentials of abstract painting, deploying the profound insight and inventiveness that have established him as one of...

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