By Jeff Davis
“Mark Bradford New Works” is currently on exhibit at Hauser & Wirth located in the Downtown Arts District through May 20, 2018. The show is the Los Angeles based artist’s first in an LA gallery in over 15 years. 10 new abstract works are displayed in the museum-like gallery’s light drenched front exhibition hall. The “paintings” are actually gigantic collages/decollages on canvas constructed from layers upon layers of newsprint, comics, magazines, billboards, business advertisements, merchant posters and endpapers that the artist has collected from either local neighborhoods or his journeys abroad.
Bradford builds up the strata of paper media and then erodes, slices and carves them into paintings with power sanders, scissors, razor blades and other tools to create the complex works. The artist selectively excavates the levels to create, discover and/or expose underlying societal issues he wishes to bring to our attention. Previous subject issues have included racism in America, the AIDS epidemic, queer identity and other cultural or community issues. Although the work is abstract in nature, clearly there are many deeper undercurrents exposed.
“I heard you got arrested today”, 2018, Mixed Media on canvas, 120” x 120” Mark Bradford
The tiles of some of the recent works give possible clues to their focal issue. The painting titles could be snippets of private conversations, tape recordings or social media tweets – so many possibilities. Examples titles that Bradford took from comics prints embedded in the works include: “You’re going to regret this when I catch you, you little shit” (Robert Mueller musing to himself?), “I heard you got arrested today” (friends of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates or George Papadopoulos?) and “Tonight… we feed!” (celebration of a pork barrel spending bill or maybe the latest vampire saga?). Perhaps I read too much into them; create your own interpretation.
Although the assumed focus of the paintings varies they all seem to have a common perspective and elements of structure. The works appear as if you are looking at viewing them from a satellite or drone images taken from above a cityscape. You see the streets, rivers and decay from a bird’s eye view. They have varying degrees of destruction or trench digging as well. Some look as if a bomb was dropped and are blow out from the center while others are more linear in their dissection and have a more grid like nature (e.g. Tonight we feed…).
“Bird of Paradise”, 2018, Mixed Media on canvas, 84” x 108”, Mark Bradford
Some of the works are easier to decipher or to create mental images and content for yourself than others. “Bird of Paradise” actually appears to be a bird or dove flying through a blizzard of obstacles in its way; the light of hope against the dark foreboding background perhaps. On the other hand, “When did I get so old” is much harder to interpret from a distance. Rays of light stream out from the center top across a grid like surface. As you step closer, the detailed view doesn’t really give away many obvious clues – you’ll have to dig deeper to find the meaning for yourself.
“When did I get so old”, 2018, Mixed Media on canvas, 59” x59”, Mark Bradford
While you are at Hauser & Wirth – don’t forget there are two other exhibits occurring in the back galleries as well, featuring: Louise Bourgeois, The Red Sky and Geta Bratescu, The leaps of Aesop. The Bourgeois show is a presentation of never before exhibited works on paper from her final years of life. There are six multi panel works on paper with words and images focusing on the artists central themes of memory, trauma, nature and the body. The “Leops of Aesop’” is Bratescu’s first LA solo presentation. The exhibit highlights here diverse portfolio of work including: drawings, collage, engraving, textiles, photography, video and film. Themes include identity, gender and dematerialization.
“Looking at me funny”, 2018, Mixed media on canvas, 71” x 95”, Mark Bradford
“Looking at me funny” detail – Mark Bradford
The Hauser & Wirth complex (a 100,000 square foot former flour mill) also includes a bookstore, gift shop and outdoor restaurant, Manuela, in the center. So, give yourself plenty of time at the gallery and don’t forget to explore the surrounding neighborhood (Arts District), which is filled with new retail, food, art and cultural opportunities.
- “I heard you got arrested today”, 2018, Mixed Media on canvas, 120” x 120” Mark Bradford
- “Bird of Paradise”, 2018, Mixed Media on canvas, 84” x 108”, Mark Bradford
- “When did I get so old”, 2018, Mixed Media on canvas, 59” x59”, Mark Bradford
- “Looking at me funny”, 2018, Mixed media on canvas, 71” x 95”, Mark Bradford
- “Looking at me funny” – detail, Mark Bradford