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Paper, Scissors, Power sander

The work entitled Strawberry is just one of Bradfords creations on view at ICA, Boston
The work entitled Strawberry is just one of Bradford’s creations on view at ICA, Boston

  Aclaimed Los Angles artist, Mark Bradford has made his way to Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. Bradford work is avant garde. After a few moments in his show that expands across the museum’s west wing. It becomes clear that Bradford is a found materials wizard, whose pieces have more elements from the Home Depot than an art supply store.

Bradford’s pieces are crafted with power sanders not paintbrushes, and pieces of colored paper instead of paint. Bradford’s website says “he doesn’t create preparatory drawings for his work but instead builds intricate networks of line on the canvas using thick and thin gauge twine as the first gesture in a multi step process. He then layers the canvas with large and small pieces of billboard paper, as well as black carbon paper, all of which are variously abused as he tears away and sands down the surfaces.” Bradford is a true visionary because he can take materials that have literally been thrown out and deemed useless and repurpose them to make complex and deep works of art.

Pieces such as “Scorched Earth” and “Black Venus” are some highlights of this sort of work, creating layers on the canvas with everyday materials.  Bradford also displays films in the exhibit, which are projected directly on the wall. “Niagara” is one of those  films and it is a loop of a ten second clip of a local man walking down the street outside of Bradford’s South Central  studio.  The artist’s aesthetic is simple, take everyday materials and situations then repurpose them to create complex works of art.  Another example of this philosophy is “Kobe, I Got Your Back”, which is simply a basketball covered with string and black paper mache. In a phone interview with Bradford, provided by the museum, the artist explains that the basketball plastered in paper questions the role of African American men in sports, particularly Basketball.  Bradford says “sometimes I like to go after normative behavior” in a description of this piece. A common theme of his work is the narrowness of masculine identity

.Often times the titles of Bradford’s pieces tell the viewer more about his views and philosophy than the piece itself. Bradford uses elaborate titles such as “Enter And Exit The New Negro”, “A Truly Rich Man Is One Whose Children Run Into His Arms Even When His Hands Are Empty”, and “Corner Of Desire And Piety” all do more to describe the piece than the pieces themselves, which are abstract and interpretive in nature and don’t necessarily lend themselves visually to any philosophy or issue.

Another easily noticed characteristic of Bradford’s work its immense scale. One of his signature pieces, “Pinnochio Is On Fire”, covers a large hallway with black rectangles taped on to a white background. Canvas pieces such as “Scorched Earth” are over ten feet across and the media used found bits of paper like billboard advertisements gives canvases an appearance of depth that makes them seem even larger. Every work in the exhibition is that it’s visually stunning. It takes some time for the magnitude of each piece to fully hit the viewer, it’s hard to grasp that such simple materials when used properly can create such dynamic works of art.

The exhibition will remain at the ICA until March 13th.  

For more info including museum location, hours, and pricing, visit www.ICABoston.org

To view some of Bradford’s work and get descriptions on the pieces, visit www.pinocchioisonfire.org