Mark Bradford in Venice. Photo by Christopher Bedford

 

CRITICALLY RECOGNIZED ARTIST Mark Bradford will represent the United States at the 57th Venice Biennale next year. Bradford creates large-scale, abstract paintings, mixed-media works that explore a range of social justice issues. He will create a new site-specific installation for the U.S. Pavilion.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs chose the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University to be the commissioning institution for the exhibition, which will be co-curated by Christopher Bedford, director of the Rose Art Museum, and Katie Siegel, the museum’s curator at-large.

Bedford selected Bradford to serve as the official U.S. representative, stating that no artist is better positioned to represent the United States in the 21st century.

“As the leading American abstract painter of his generation and a vigorous advocate for the interests of under-represented urban communities in the U.S. and beyond, Bradford creates work that embodies art’s capacity to both inspire wonder and catalyze enduring social change,” Bedford said in a museum press release.

“The leading American abstract painter of his generation… Bradford creates work that embodies art’s capacity to both inspire wonder and catalyze enduring social change.”
— Christopher Bedford, Director of the Rose Art Museum

Los Angeles-based Bradford is the co-founder of Art + Practice (A+P), an arts and education foundation—including gallery space, a residency program, a black-owned bookstore and programming that serves local foster youth—near his studio in Leimert Park. Last week, A+P announced that is had acquired a nearby building with 5,000 square feet of space where its entire museum-curated art exhibition program will be hosted beginning in fall 2016.

Bradford’s work has been exhibited around the world and is in the permanent collection of major musuems. In 2014, The Rose Art Museum presented “Mark Bradford: Sea Monsters,” a solo exhibition of new paintings and sculptures. His work is on view this spring at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis. The exhibition at the Venice Biennale will be on view May 13–Nov. 26, 2017.

 

Mark Bradford (American installation and conceptual artist, b. 1961); Father You Have Murdered Me; 2012; Mixed media on canvas; 102 in. x 144 in. (259.08 cm x 365.76 cm); The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (Waltham, MA)
MARK BRADFORD, “Father You Have Murdered Me,” 2012 (mixed media on canvas). | The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

 

HISTORIC HONOR

Okwui Enwezor served as artistic director of the 56th Venice Biennale held last year. He was the first African-born curator to oversee the prestigious international art exhibition and more than 35 black artists from around the world were chosen to participate in “All the World’s Futures,” the main exhibition in the Central Pavilion.


Since the biennale was established in 1895, however, few African American artists have had the opportunity to represent the United States and mount their work in the U.S. Pavilion.

In 1956, at the 28th Venice Biennale, Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) and Norman Lewis (1909-1979) participated in “American Artists Paint the City,” a group show featuring about three-dozen artists presented in the U.S. Pavilion. Willem de Kooning, Edward Hopper, Franz Kline, Georgia O’Keefe, and Jackson Pollock, were also among the contributing artists that year.

Sam Gilliam‘s work appeared in *Works for Spaces: Antonakos, Bladen, Gilliam, Irwin and Rockburn,” a 1972 group show in the U.S. Pavilion.

When Robert Colescott (1925-2009) was chosen to represent the United States at the 1997 Venice Biennale, The New York Times report noted the historic nature of his selection: “[Colescott] is the first black artist to represent the United States in a single-artist exhibition at the Venice Biennale and the first American painter whose work is to be shown in the United States pavilion since Jasper Johns in 1988.”

In 2003, Fred Wilson represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. His solo exhibition was titled, “Fred Wilson: Speak of Me as I Am.”

 

TRUE REPRESENTATION

On April 29, Bradford will receive the David C.Driskell Prize at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

He is not yet ready to reveal his plans for next year’s biennale. But the subject matter, he told the New York Times, will reflect the social, political and economic issues he continues to bring to light and address in his work.

“The black body is always a heavy politicized body, in America in particular, and so carrying that burden is kind of a birthright for me,” Bradford told the newspaper. “I’m thinking a lot about what matters to me right now. And I think this is a time to put that on the table.” CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Mark Bradford in Venice. | Photo by Christopher Bedford, Courtesy The Rose Art Museum

 

BOOKSHELF
“Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth” accompanied the artist’s exhibition at the Hammer Museum. Rife with illustrations, the volume discusses “Spiderman,” Bradford’s multimedia standup comedy installation and includes the original script for the stand up routine. “Mark Bradford: My Head Became a Rock” is an 18-page limited-edition overscaled artist;s book that documents Bradford’s inaugural exhibition at Hauser and Wirth, Zurich (2014). Both titles were published this year. Forthcoming in January 2016, “Mark Bradford: Tears of a Tree” explores three monumental collage paintings titled “The Tears of a Tree,” “Falling Horses” and “Lazy Mountain,” inspired by the Bradford’s visits to Shanghai.

 

sea pigs
MARK BRADFORD, “Sea Pig,” 2014 (collage/mixed media, 6 buoys). | Courtesy the artist.

 

Mark Bradford (American installation and conceptual artist, b. 1961); Sexy Cash; 2013; Mixed media collage on weather-proofed board; 22 in. x 28 in. (55.88 cm x 71.12 cm); The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (Waltham, MA)
MARK BRADFORD, “Sexy Cash,” 2013 (mixed media collage on weather-proofed board). | The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.