Vernissage Week in Venice: Mark Bradford’s American Pavilion

Previous Story
Article Image

Vernissage Week at the 57th Venice Biennale Part 1

Next Story
Article Image

Vernissage Week in Venice: Main Pavilion

The Venice Trip Part 2

Water taxis were super clogged with art journalists in Venice on the morning of Wednesday, May 10. We huddled together on the boats and exchanged business cards before arriving at the Giardini location for a preview of the 57th Venice Biennale which would not open to the public until May 13, 2017. We stood in a crazy long line (Italy!) and then entered the garden full of free coffee, brochures, excellent pants, and women wearing giant red plastic Biennale balloons handing out maps.

I tagged along with a crowd from the Tate Museum to get an official preview of Mark Bradford’s solo exhibit, Tomorrow is Another Day, at the US Pavilion. Curated by The Rose Museum at Brandeis and the Baltimore Museum of Art, the show is a critique of American history and culture combined with mythological references. It was a treat to be introduced to the artist and to hear about the project directly from him.

I shot a few short videos from the tour and Mark was generous with the audience, taking time to explain his materials and thought process. My critical review of the show is published here at Hyperallergic and I cannot write anything else about this without losing my mind.

MARK BRADFORD: TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY will be on exhibit May 13-November 26, 2017

Official text: Mark Bradford’s exhibition for the U.S. Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2017 is born out of his longtime commitment to the inherently social nature of the material world we all inhabit. For Bradford, abstraction is not opposed to content; it embodies it. His selection of ordinary materials represents the hair salon, Home Depot, and the streets of Los Angeles—both the culture industry and the grey economy. Bradford renews the traditions of abstract and materialist painting, demonstrating that freedom from socially prescribed representation is profoundly meaningful in the hands of a black artist.

Official text: Bradford’s longtime social and intellectual interests will be present in the Pavilion, most notably in his concern for marginalized people, both their vulnerability and their resiliency, and the cyclical threat and hope of American unfulfilled social promise. Coming at a moment of terrible uncertainty, Tomorrow is Another Day is a narrative of ruin, violence, agency, and possibility, a story of ambition and belief in art’s capacity to engage us all in urgent and profound conversations, and even action.

Following its debut in Venice, Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day will be on view at The Baltimore Museum of Art from September 2018 through January 2019.

Below: crowds wait in line to enter while I photograph symbolic garbage and gravel in front of the pavilion. Mark talks to journalists and Tate Museum group.

Artist Bio: Mark Bradford was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, where he lives and works. He received a BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Best known for his large-scale abstract paintings that examine the class-, race-, and gender-based economies that structure urban society in the United States, Bradford’s richly layered and collaged canvases represent a connection to the social world through materials. Bradford uses fragments of found posters, billboards, newsprint, and custom-printed paper to simultaneously engage with and advance the formal traditions of abstract painting.

Solo exhibitions include Scorched Earth at the Hammer Museum (2015), Sea Monsters at the Rose Art Museum (2014), Aspen Art Museum (2011), Maps and Manifests at Cincinnati Art Museum (2008), and Neither New Nor Correct at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2007). In 2009, Mark Bradford was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Award.

In 2010, Mark Bradford, a large-scale survey of his work, was organized by Christopher Bedford and presented at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, before traveling to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Beginning November 2017, the artist will present Pickett’s Charge, a monumental commissioned cyclorama of paintings at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.

Mark Bradford at the press preview for the US Pavilion in the 57th Venice Biennale from Bmoreart on Vimeo.

His work has been widely exhibited and has been included in group shows at LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014), Whitney Museum of American Art (2013), the 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011), Seoul Biennial (2010), the Carnegie International (2008), São Paulo Biennial (2006), and Whitney Biennial (2006). Mark Bradford is represented worldwide by Hauser & Wirth.

Mark Bradford and Anita Hill outside the US Pavilion in Venice on May 14, 2017 from Bmoreart on Vimeo.

Top Photo by Sherri Fisher. Other photos by Kelly Zimmerman, Sherri Fisher, and Cara Ober.

Related Stories
After 180 applicants, Baltimore's last five mayors have selected their choices for official portraits by Baltimore-based artists

The Baltimore Mayoral Portrait Competition has selected Ernest Shaw Jr., Kennedy Ringgold, Gaia, Megan Lewis, and Karen Warshal for $20,000 commissions

A Conversation with the Multimedia Artist and Activist on Her Dear Black Girl Project and the Power of Making Space for Community

"I was raised by a village and grew up in a multicultural environment, so community is the secret to my work's success."

A Book for Art Nerds and Aficionados, as well as the Culturally Curious

Get the Picture: Bianca Bosker’s Journey Among Inspired Artists and Obsessive Art Fiends Who Taught Her How to See (February 2024 Viking)

Reflecting on the History of the American Labor Movement while Looking Ahead into the New Millenium 

Forged Together: Collective Action at the Baltimore Museum of Industry Reflects on the History of the American Labor Movement While Also Looking Ahead into the New Millenium    You hear, ...