Friday, August 17, 2012

Mapping A City with Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford, "Potable Water", 2005

At the tail end of a blissful five day sojourn in Chapel Hill, I was reminded upon visiting the Nasher Museum, just what a phenomenal institution it is and has become in its brief six year life span.  I have yet to be disappointed by the exhibits curated there.  Upon entering the first room of what houses the permanent collection and new acquisitions is a grouping of Mark Bradford paintings.  I was first introduced to his work at the Studio Museum in Harlem, when he participated in the Romare Bearden tributary show.   It was a fabulous ensemble of contemporary artists, entirely, I believe, of African American descent.   Mickalene Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas and Hervin Anderson paid homage in the most elegant of ways and it was titillating.  They are living proof that we can learn from our predecessors and offer something fresh and new in response.  It helped to quell the inner fear of the artist who worries that he or she might not be able to reinvent the wheel, at least in the form of visual art, be it a painting or a collage.

Mark Bradford, "Spinning Man", 2007

Mark Bradford’s paintings at the Nasher are no exception. Both painting and collage, he reconstructs maps of South Central LA, from where he was born, with billboard paper and advertisement posters reclaimed from his city, and black carbon paper,  into unrecognizable strips he adheres to a canvas. Reassembled, sanded and layered again, he coats them with paint, carving new imaginary highways, to create a unique urban diagram with a surface that you can almost feel just by looking at it. 

Mark Bradford, close-up of "Red Painting", 2009, 101.75"x143.5"


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