Few artists have used mapping as an artistic practice to the effect that Mark Bradford has, weaving the visual and social landscapes of urban societies into the layers of his collage paintings. These paintings, along with works in sculpture and video, will be displayed at a joint exhibition held by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts beginning February 18. This exhibition is a traveling survey of Bradford’s work organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts.
Though Bradford’s two-dimensional works are abstract in nature, they tell a story. The materials he incorporates include posters, flyers, and earlier, even objects from the hair salon his mother owned. In both the materials and the visual compositions of his paintings, traces of urban life allude to the physical structure of the city as well as the intangible forces that shape relationships within the city—the often mentioned dynamics of race, class, gender, and sexuality. The works correspond to the artist’s background growing up in Los Angeles.
Bradford’s works fail to lose their meaning as he maneuvers between museum environments and social spaces: Detail, which will be displayed at YBCA, is a sculptural work made from parts of another piece by Bradford, Mithra. Whereas Mithra was created in 2008 as a public artwork in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Detail is reconstructed with a gallery-specific context in mind. Of Mithra, Bradford says he “wanted to make something social because the land itself was so social and politically charged.”