Modernizing Modern Abstract: Mark Bradford’s New Works

at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles (Through May 20, 2018)
Reviewed by Emily Nimptsch

How do you modernize modern abstract painting? If you are beloved Los Angeles-based painter and collage artist Mark Bradford, you build thick, impasto-inspired canvas surfaces with ten to fifteen layers of paper in the form of attention-grabbing advertisements, photographs, newsprint, magazines, posters, and comic book panels. Shellacked with glue and lacquer, you dry them in the sun, bleach them, and sand them down, partially exposing the forgotten strata below. With Bradford’s wildly inventive, semi-geological paintings, the viewer acts as an archaeologist from some distant future excavating the remains of our modern society. Also acting as socio-political city maps and diagrams of the human body, this MacArthur Fellow’s masterful large-scale fusions of Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, and Street art allow the audience to consider issues of LGBTQ rights, the AIDS epidemic, and systemic racism through the lens of both the micro and the macro.

Following his triumphant May 2017 Venice Biennale exhibition, Tomorrow is Another Day at the United States Pavilion featuring an eerily delipidated black and gold plaster rotunda dome as a statement on the country’s dark moral history and the current state of the American democracy under the Trump administration, Mark Bradford is currently the subject of a far more intimate show, New Works at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles.

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You’re going to regret this when I catch you, you little shit. © Mark Bradford. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joshua White.

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RIOT MATERIAL is LA’s premier literary-cultural magazine with an eye on art, word, and forward-aiming thought. Check out our gallery on IG: @ riotmaterial.

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