Published October 03, 2020
How does an artist incorporate their city, that landscape of ever changing layers, into their work? For artist like Mark Bradford, Los Angeles is his muse, its socioeconomic and cultural information are the materials of a unique combination of collage and decollage in huge labor intensive paintings. Bradford's paintings are mixed media experimentations involving layers of paint and what he calls "media throwaways" taken from the L.A.'s streets. If Robert Rauschenberg used domestic throwaways of furniture, cans, and boxes for his combines, Bradford collects a beauty salon's end papers, business signs, maps, billboards, movie posters, and comic books, pieces of historical significance to the city.
The layers of Bradford's paintings accumulate by gluing and their subsequent peeling, lacerating, eroding, and excavating to reveal meaningful juxtapositions between them. And for many of these paintings, the overall result is a melting grid, one suggestive of "L.A.’s sporadically erratic street plan."
Painted lumps evoke the hotspots of civil unrest on maps highlighted by the news media or the bullet holes in neighborhood walls. Cash for houses! Immigration papers in 30 days! Locks of hair for sale! Found signage and advertising found on fences from the L.A. riots become a painting's materials and accreted information. And during this time of quarantine, Bradford has turned his attention to the small immigrant businesses shuttered by Covid-19 and the merchant posters from the poorest parts of the city, signs calling for essential workers, signs offering to buy your house, signs for covid drive-throughs.