The painted paper art of Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford discussed his art and the impact of BLM and COVID-19 with Francesca Aton.

mark bradford

Black gay artist Mark Bradford spoke to Francesca Aton of Art in America about his use of paper in his paintings.

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles on 20th November 1961. He’s best known for combining paint and paper collage to create his work, as well as using the themes of masculinity and gender.

End papers, small rectangular sheets of translucent paper that protect hair during the perm process, are the basis of Los Angeles–based painter Mark Bradford’s early artworks. While working in his mother’s beauty salon, Bradford began integrating the papers into abstract paintings, creating a layered scrim through which the paint emerges. The artist, guided by an interest in common materials, has incorporated items from around Los Angeles—including fragments of posters, broadsides, and billboards—to tackle issues of civil unrest.

Bradford on his use of paper and how that evolved:

I hadn’t given much thought to the materiality of the end papers until I started experimenting with other types of paper. End papers are similar to tissue paper, and are very absorbent and translucent. When I was painting, it was a lot easier to achieve layers of color due to those qualities of the end papers. As I started adding more opaque materials, like billboard and poster paper, the paintings looked flat. That’s when I began dunking paper in water. I thought maybe if the pulp disintegrated, a little bit of light could pass through. This addition really shifted my practice. To this very day, I still use water because it’s the only thing that pulls the paper apart and makes it flow like paint.

And how COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests have impacted his work:

At the beginning of the pandemic, I had a lot of triggers because in some ways it reminded me of the AIDS epidemic. It’s been great to see that so many have mobilized in this moment for positive change and have found creative and interesting ways to make their voices heard. I’ve learned to be kind of fluid and keep creating work. I like to say that I’m not on Pacific Standard Time, but rather on Pandemic Standard Time—and I chuckle when people send me calendar invites for upcoming events.

Read the full interview on Art in America.

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