Review by Siofra Mcsherry
Mark Bradford’s studio is located in the centre of the south Los Angeles neighbourhood that is his home, the source of his visual references and materials. The posters and advertising print that feature in his canvases come from the streets of the city. His assistants have been known to put on working vests and hats and lay out cones to impersonate city officials when removing fly-posters from the walls - they enter the same grey legal area in recovering the material as the original posters did putting it up. These acts of recovery and discovery form part of the object history the artist views as integral to his materials. They are replicated as the viewer discovers layer upon layer of partially and completely disguised print and paper within the collage. Bradford covers entirely over the evidence in some cases, part of a physical process that leaves traces on the paintings. Scrapes and tears are visible.
The canvases settle almost too easily into the clean and well-lit space of White Cube. Their surfaces seduce the viewer with flashes of colour, dark blue or gold working across the areas of the collage, creating a coherence that makes the images pleasing to the eye. Fragments of repeated text form a grid across several pieces - the word ‘bugs’ or advertising jargon. Beneath the surface glitter lies the found print material. Posters for pest control services lie beneath the bugs, and the mobile numbers of When It Stops Snowing disguise placards advertising a service for prisoners to receive calls. The canvases are the site of an urban archaeology in process, a part buried, part revealed record of interconnected and conflicting lives that share the same city space, services given and received. Constant reminders are given of the social realities of the artist’s home neighbourhood.
One of the most successful pieces is Field of Miracles, composed of a grid of 44 square-ish grey canvases that take up the entire far wall of White Cube, composed of many layers of newsprint hastily glued and sanded back to reveal contours and textures beneath. The work is fascinating at close hand, the viewer drawn up to examine the tactile surface, the complex changes of level and tone. The blocks resemble slate, and from a distance it recalls a public memorial, composed of a faceless expanse of stone.
A video installation records the artist’s Biennial work in New Orleans, the construction of a painfully belated ark from shipping containers and the billboards and found print familiar in his work. The Super-8 format gives a sense of dreamlike distance that suits the project, which seeks to construct a sense of false or failed security, an ark that cannot float. Bradford is careful not to claim the Katrina tragedy, nor suggest he is native to New Orleans - this work does not have the sense of confident ownership of the terrain visible in the Los Angeles canvases. Those representative works give the impression of solidity and visual coherence that belies the complexity beneath, a complexity that arises from the artist’s immersion in his community, its forms and found objects.
White Cube, 48 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6PB
Title : Mark Bradford May Heaven Preserve You From Dangers and Assassins 2010 xvga
Title : Mark Bradford The Fairy Gave Him the Sugar 2010 xvga
Title : Mark Bradford Things Fall Apart 2010 xvga 1
Title : Mark Bradford When It Stops Snowing 2010 xvga
Review by Siofra Mcsherry