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Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide Ocula Conversation Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide

Ongoing since 2012, the Real DMZ Project interrogates the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea through annual, research-based exhibitions that bring together the works of Korean and international artists. Sunjung Kim, the independent curator behind the project, conceived the idea of exploring the DMZ while curating Japanese artist...

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Frieze Week Lowdown: London Shows to See Ocula Report Frieze Week Lowdown: London Shows to See 20 Sep 2019 : Tessa Moldan for Ocula

London's galleries and museums are gearing up for a lively October, with Frieze London and Frieze Masters running between 3 and 6 October 2019 at Regent's Park, along with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, taking place across the same dates at Somerset House; and the tenth anniversary of the Sunday Art Fair, showcasing new and emerging artists...

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Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum Ocula Insight | Video Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum 16 August 2019

Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...

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Mark Bradford

b. 1961, USA

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.

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 4-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
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Featured Artworks

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Frostbite by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordFrostbite, 2019 Mixed media on canvas
337.2 x 585.5 cm
Hauser & Wirth
The path to the river belongs to animals by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordThe path to the river belongs to animals, 2019 Mixed media on canvas
167.6 x 228.6 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Feather by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordFeather, 2018 Mixed media on canvas
304.8 x 304.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth
A Peculiar truth by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordA Peculiar truth, 2018 Mixed media on canvas
243.8 x 243.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth
I finally touched the sky by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordI finally touched the sky, 2018 Mixed media on canvas
76.2 x 61 cm
Not For Sale
Hauser & Wirth
Let go of me!! Let me.... by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordLet go of me!! Let me...., 2018 Mixed media on canvas
209.6 x 265.4 cm
Hauser & Wirth
Next, Storm the castle by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordNext, Storm the castle, 2018 Mixed media on canvas
Hauser & Wirth
How much do your stones weigh lady? by Mark Bradford contemporary artwork
Mark BradfordHow much do your stones weigh lady?, 2018 Mixed media on canvas
182.9 x 243.8 cm
Hauser & Wirth

Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Mark Bradford, Cerberus at Hauser & Wirth, London
Upcoming
1 October–21 December 2019 Mark Bradford Cerberus Hauser & Wirth, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Mark Bradford, Mark Bradford at Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong
Closed
27 March–12 May 2018 Mark Bradford Mark Bradford Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum Ocula Insight | Video Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum 16 August 2019

Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...

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Mark Bradford Ocula Conversation Mark Bradford Artist, USA

Born in Los Angeles in 1961, Mark Bradford creates paintings without paint. Earlier in his career he used street merchant posters and hair salon end papers, sticking them to canvases and then tearing them away and sanding them down. The resulting works are abstracts imbued with subtle traces of cultural specificities.Having won the...

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In Related Press

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

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 Elephant : 24 June 2018

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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'Emotionally and Physically, You Have to Keep at It': Mark Bradford on His Epic Painting Cycle Hirshhorn Museum, 'Pickett's Charge' Related Press 'Emotionally and Physically, You Have to Keep at It': Mark Bradford on His Epic Painting Cycle Hirshhorn Museum, 'Pickett's Charge' ARTnews : 6 June 2018

Pickett's Charge, a group of eight humongous, mixed media artworks that Mark Bradford completed last year, may stop you in your tracks. That's what happened to me at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. I became transfixed. Instantly. Wherever I looked, I was captivated by reds, blues, and yellows; linear networks stretching across vast...

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Mark Bradford confronts the myths of America’s past Related Press Mark Bradford confronts the myths of America’s past Apollo : 16 January 2018

At a retreat a few years ago, curators from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. held a brainstorming session to contemplate the museum’s most successful shows in recent memory. As director Melissa Chiu revealed, an exhibition’s success depended largely on whether it worked with or against the unique architecture of the...

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In Video & Audio

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

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 15th and 16th stories of the...

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

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 the...

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