Born in Los Angeles in 1961, Mark Bradford is an installation and conceptual African American artist currently working in Los Angeles, CA. Bradford’s artistic work is wide-ranging in its multiple mediums such as collaged paintings, sculptures videos and installations. He studied art in Valencia, CA, at the California Institute of the Arts, earning a BFA in 1995 and an MFA in 1997.
Bradford engages the discarded materials of urban life, often remnants of informal economic systems that arise out of necessity in the city. His early years working at his mother’s hair salon can be see through his prevalent use of permanents-wave endpapers, foil, bobby pins and dye in his collages. Over time and over the development of his artistic style, Bradford expanded on his use of found materials, incorporating everything from peeling movie posters to salvaged plywood, resulting in layered, abstract creations, combining collage and paint. Bradford describes his work: “Think about all the white noise out there in the streets: all the beepers and blaring culture—cell phones, amps, chromed-out wheels, and synthesizers. I pick up a lot of that energy in my work, from the posters, which act as memory of things pasted and things past. You can peel away the layers of papers and it’s like reading the streets through signs.”
Bradford often tackles tough subject in his work. The majority of his pieces deal with issues of race, gender and class in American society. His first survey expedition presented by Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts entitled Mark Bradford, showed the extensiveness of his work with pieces created from 1997 to 2010. His work has been exhibited at various notorious locations including the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Other well-known works by Bradford include A Thousand Daddies, Across 110th Street, and Help Us. The last of which is an especially poignant piece for which Bradford created an installation on the roof of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh in 2008. The installation, which was inspired by the victims of Hurricane Katrina, can only be seen in aerial view and spells out the words “HELP US.” Bradford has won several awards for his work, including the Nancy Graves Foundation Grant in 2002, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in 2003, the Bucksbaum Award in 2006, and the MacArthur Fellowship in 2009.