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ICA Boston Presents One of the Leading Figures in Contemporary Art: Mark Bradford
Mark Bradford, Potable Water, 2005, Billboard paper, photomechanical reproductions, acrylic gel medium, and additional mixed media, 130 x 196 inches, Collection of Hunter Gray, Photo: Bruce M. White.

BOSTON, MA.- This fall, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston opens Mark Bradford —the first museum survey devoted to one of the leading figures in contemporary art. Bradford is best known for his collage-layered paintings that express the energy and poetry of life in the city, particularly Los Angeles where the artist lives and works. A recipient of a 2009 MacArthur Foundation Award (known as the "genius grant"), Bradford uses found materials—peeling movie posters, homemade flyers, salvaged plywood, even the endpapers used to perm black hair—to create his vibrant, textured compositions. Pop culture, identity politics, the history of collage, mapping, and abstract painting, are just a few of his influences. On view from Nov. 19, 2010 through March 13, 2011, Mark Bradford features over 35 works, including painting, sculpture, installation, and video spanning the past decade.

We are very excited to welcome Mark Bradford and present his powerful work in Boston,’ says Jill Medvedow, director of the ICA. “His paintings, videos and sculptures capture the beauty, grit and complexity of contemporary urban society, and they do so with an honesty and an originality that makes us want to look deeper at the art and at ourselves.”

“Bradford’s visually striking canvases push the possibilities of contemporary painting—for instance, the artist does not use paint in his work.” says Helen Molesworth, ICA chief curator, who coordinated the exhibition at the ICA. “Through an innovative process of layering, embellishing and eroding materials, Bradford’s paintings are a kind of an archeology of the present, even as they explore the limits and possibilities of abstraction.”

The exhibition offers an overview of the main themes in Bradford’s art from 2000 to 2010, including urban space, music, black men and popular culture, and the fate of New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. One of the earliest works in the show is Enter and Exit the New Negro (2001), a minimalist canvas made from perm endpapers—a material used in the straightening of African-American hair. Lined against each other in rows, the endpapers form an elegant, white and grey grid that references the history of abstraction as well as African-American culture. The work is also autobiographical inasmuch as the endpapers were gathered from the hair salon that Bradford’s mother owned and where the artist worked growing up. This multi-dimensionality is typical of Bradford’s compositions.

Music has been a source of inspiration to the artist throughout his career, and he often gives his works evocative titles that allude to 1990s hip hop or other musical sources. A new multimedia installation conceived for this exhibition, Pinocchio Is On Fire (2010) immerses the viewer in images and sound to reflect a deeper meditation on music and musicians, and the roles they play in our society. In this installation Bradford uses the persona of the recently deceased soul legend Teddy Pendergrass much as he uses his other materials—an image left behind, ready to be deconstructed, altered, and reincorporated into something new.

Mark Bradford (b. 1961) lives and works in his native Los Angeles, California. He earned his BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from the California Institute of the Arts. Bradford has received many awards, including the Bucksbaum Award (2006); the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003); and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2002). His work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions at such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Institute of Contemporary Art | Boston | Mark Bradford | Jill Medvedow |

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