Program Type: 
YBCA and SFMOMA Present
Mark Bradford
February 18, 2012 - May 27, 2012
Downstairs Galleries


YBCA and SFMOMA Present
Mark Bradford
Feb 18 – May 27, 2012 • Downstairs Galleries
$7 Regular/ $5 senior, student, teacher
FREE for YBCA and SFMOMA members
FREE admission with SFMOMA ticket stub
FREE first Tuesday of each month • noon – 8 pm

Mark Bradford (b. 1961) is best known for large-scale abstract paintings made from a variety of collaged materials, including billboard paper, hairdressing supplies, newsprint, carbon paper, and other papers layered together (or stripped apart) and then manipulated with nylon string, caulking, and sanding. Often incorporating references to the social conditions of a particular location, these works not only extend the possibilities of contemporary painting, they offer an unusual and highly individual examination of the economies (often defined by race, gender, and class) that structure urban society in the United States, and specifically in Leimert Park, the South Central Los Angeles neighborhood where the artist lived as a child and continues to maintain his studio.

Organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts and co-presented in San Francisco by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and SFMOMA, this comprehensive survey of Bradford’s career to date will be on view at both venues, offering more than 50 works from 2000 through 2010. Included in YBCA’s presentation is the large-scale work Detail, an ark-like sculpture reconstructed from components of Mithra, a piece originally created for the 2008 Prospect.1 biennial in New Orleans in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Also on view at YBCA will be Bradford’s 2011 work Rat Catcher of Hamelin. The work is a large-scale four–panel mixed media collage created for the Istanbul biennial. 50 billboards collected from all around South-Central Los Angeles form the basis of this socially charged abstract art. Sanded, stripped surfaces reveal what lies below.

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Please note that there are separate admission policies for each institution.

Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford
Feb 18 - May 27, 2012
SFMOMA, 4th Floor Galleries
$18 adult; $12 senior; $11 student; children under 12 FREE
Thurs 6-8:45 pm half price; FREE first Tuesday of each month
Hours: Mon, Tue, Fri, Sat, Sun 11 am – 5:45 pm; Thu 11 am – 8:45 pm

Media sponsor:

Above photo credits
Mark Bradford
Detail, 2009–10, installation view at the Wexner Center for the Arts 2010
Plywood, found paper, adhesive (parts of Mithra reassembled for the exhibition)
196 x 216 x 360 inches
Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
Photo: Jo McCulty

Mark Bradford

Mithra, 2008

Found paper on plywood, metal shipping containers

70 x 20 x 25 ft

Installation view:

Prospect.1 New Orleans, 2008

Photo: Javier Romero

Artwork (c) Mark Bradford; Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

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  • Mark Bradford Opening Night Party
    Feb 17, 2012 8:30pm
    Grand Lobby

    $5 Advance/ $7 at the door/ FREE for YBCA and SFMOMA members

    Join us as we celebrate the opening of Mark Bradford and Audience as Subject, Part 2. The evening’s entertainment will include contemporary Butoh performance artist Deborah Butler (of KitsuneButoh) in a fierce and highly charged performance piece called "Ground-tone." And we’ll be spinning late into the night with none other than the Bay Area's beloved DJ Sake Onederful!

    6 pm - Donor Tour, Curators Circle & above
    7 pm - VIP reception, Discoverer & above
    7-9 pm - Donor Lounge, Groundbreaker & above
    9:30 pm - Public Opening

    Opening night party sponsors:

    Mark Bradford
    Corner of Desire and Piety, 2008
    Acrylic gel medium, cardboard paper, caulking, silkscreen ink, acrylic paint, and additional mixed media
    135 3/4 x 344 1/4 inches
    The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica
    Photo: Fredrik Nilsen
  • Mark Bradford
    February 18, 2012 – May 27, 2012
    Gallery 1
  • Mark Bradford in Conversation: In the Aftermath of Prospect.1 and Hurricane Katrina
    Mar 31, 2012 1:00pm
    Screening Room
    FREE w/ gallery admission; FREE for YBCA and SFMOMA members

    Mark Bradford, in conversation with writers Ernest Hardy and Sue Bell Yank, will discuss the conceptual framework behind Mithra and how it relates to the examination of cultural regeneration within a post-disaster urban environment. Given the controversy surrounding Prospect.1 New Orleans, the guest speakers will have the opportunity to re-examine the cultural ramifications of the first US biennial in relation to the host city, as well as elaborate on Mithra’s contribution within that given context.

    Ernest Hardy’s film and music criticism and writing have appeared in LA Weekly, the LA Times, Vibe, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Source and other publications. As a contributor to the monograph Mark Bradford: Merchant Posters, Hardy is exceedingly familiar with Mark Bradford and his practice. Hardy has indicated that he plans to write a book to be titled 1 Cat Seen that will center on Mithra and the state of blackness in the era of Katrina.

    Sue Bell Yank is a writer and arts organizer and currently serves as Assistant Director of Academic Programs at the Hammer Museum. She is the author of Prospect.1 New Orleans and the Post-Disaster Arts Movement and has written extensively on the role of contemporary art in rebuilding efforts after a crisis, focusing on post-Katrina New Orleans. Her writing has also been featured in the 2008 California Biennial exhibition catalogue, Mammut magazine, the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest and various arts blogs.

    Mark Bradford
    Across Canal, 2009–10
    Super-8 film transferred to digital video
    33 mins., 22 1/2 secs.
    Courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
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Artist Bio

Mark Bradford
Mark Bradford (b. 1961) lives and works in his native Los Angeles, California. He earned his BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from the California Institute for the Arts. In his early work, he often used the tools—permanent-wave end papers, hair dye, and foil—of his previous trade as a hairdresser in his mother’s salon, which he would layer, combine and alter to form rhythmic geometric compositions. Soon, Bradford cast a wider net for his materials, collecting posters, flyers, and billboards from his neighborhood—materials that expanded his “palette” but still remained rooted in the merchant community he was raised in. Though he continues to focus on large-scale collage paintings, Bradford has expanded his practice into video, photography, sculpture, and site-specific installations.

Bradford has won many major awards, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2002), a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003), the Bucksbaum Award for distinction at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2009. He has been included in major exhibitions at the Cincinnati Art Museum (2008); the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2006); REDCAT, Los Angeles (2004); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2003); and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001). He has also participated in Prospect.1 New Orleans (2008), the 55th Carnegie International (2008), the XXVII Sao Paulo Biennial (2006); the Whitney Biennial (2006); and inSite: Art Practices in the Public Domain, San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico (2005).

About The Exhibition

On view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) from February 18 through June 17, 2012, in its only West Coast presentation, Mark Bradford is the first major museum survey of paintings, sculptures, and multimedia work by this leading figure in contemporary American art.

Bradford (b. 1961)—a Los-Angeles-based artist and MacArthur Foundation “genius” award recipient—works in a variety of media but is best known for his often enormously scaled collages on canvas, which are akin to abstract paintings. Gathering carefully chosen found materials with “built-in-history,” as the artist says, Bradford engages in a complex artistic process that involves both creation and destruction. His intricately made, fractured works often address pressing political issues and the media’s influence on contemporary society while cataloguing cultural change and the artist’s personal responses to societal conditions.

Bradford’s early works incorporate permanent-wave end papers, an influence from his family’s beauty parlor in South Central Los Angeles. Later works employ various collaged materials typically salvaged from the street—billboard paper, newsprint, carbon paper, wrapping paper—that the artist layers together or strips apart, and then dramatically manipulates with nylon string, caulking, and sanding.

While striking in its formal beauty and subtle craft, Bradford’s art also evokes allusions to urban landscape, most specifically the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles where Bradford lived as a child and still maintains his studio. His abstract paintings probe the structures of urban society often defined by race, gender, and class. As a result, they resonate with complex social and economic meaning.

Organized by curator Christopher Bedford for Wexner Center for the Arts, this most comprehensive account of Bradford’s career to date will open in San Francisco as a co-presentation installed at two neighboring venues, offering more than 50 works spanning 2000 to 2010. The exhibition will be overseen at SFMOMA by Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator Painting and Sculpture; and at YBCA by Director of Visual Arts Betti-Sue Hertz.

At YBCA, the exhibition brings the legacy of Hurricane Katrina into sharp relief, featuring three major works by Bradford related to Mithra (2008), his enormous ark-like public art project installed in the Lower Ninth Ward for Prospect.1, the first New Orleans biennial. The title for the work comes from an ancient Roman deity associate with light, justice and wisdom; this association, combined with the ark’s reference to a biblical flood, positions Mithra as both an indictment of the government’s failure to protect the citizen of the Ninth Ward and an expression of hope for survival and new life. The artist has said that he “wanted to make something social because the land itself was so social and politically charged. […] I was making a proposition that humanity would spring from the earth and that life continues.”

In YBCA’s galleries, Bradford will reconstruct sections of his original Mithra piece to create a new sculpture titled Detail (2010). Also on view at YBCA will be related film by Bradford titled Across Canal, which examines the conception, production, and reception of Mithra, as well as Corner of Desire and Piety (2008), a wall grid of found FEMA and other merchant posters that have been “roughed up” through sanding or otherwise altered by the artist. All other works in the exhibition will be on view in SFMOMA’s 4th floor galleries.

The selection of work at SFMOMA concentrates largely on painting—the artist’s primary activity—capturing the development of Bradford’s sensibility, which ranges from relatively modest-sized canvases to monumental public projects and from purely formal investigations of material to his engagement with sociopolitical questions.

Organized chronologically at SFMOMA, the exhibition offers a thematic summary of Bradford’s art over the past decade, showcasing key works from major bodies of work while emphasizing three central aspects of his practice: the palpable energy and physicality of this process; his interest in the specificity of materials and the methods he invents to manipulate them; and the importance he places on producing new work, pushing himself every time he enters the studio. The presentation also reveals how Bradford constantly revisits and repurposes various concepts and techniques, foregrounding the relentless energy that is one of the defining characteristics of the artist and his work.

In addition to highlighting Bradford’s work as a painter, SFMOMA’s exhibition features sound and video pieces, including a new large-scale environmental installation titled Pinocchio Is On Fire (2009), commissioned in tandem with the survey. Created during Bradford’s recent residency at the Wexner, this three-part multimedia work examines changing concepts of identity relating to the black male body from the early 1980s to the present, with cultural references that include the rise of HIV and crack cocaine, as well as gangster rap, mega-churches, and aspects of the artist’s own biography. In this work, Pinocchio is an imaginary historical figure, or as Bradford notes, “an energy,” whose journey through three decades reflects Bradford’s own attempts to shape a new conception of the black male body through various processes of abstraction.

The Wexner Center for the Arts’ organization of this exhibition was made possible by major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Resource Interactive. Significant contributions are provided by The Broad Art Foundation, the Nimoy Foundation, Nancy and Dave Gill, and Toby Devan Lewis.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
Abundance Foundation
Koret Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Novellus Systems

YBCA Exhibitions 11–12 is made possible in part by:
Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan, Meridee Moore and Kevin King, and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Free First Tuesdays:
Underwritten by Directors Forum Members

Media sponsor: