New York, at Hauser & Wirth a major solo exhibition by Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford, a leading name in contemporary American art, is the star of a major solo exhibition, "You Don't Have to Tell Me Twice," at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in New York from April 13 to July 28, 2023.

From April 13 to July 28, 2023, Hauser & Wirth Gallery, at its New York location, presents You Don’t Have to Tell Me Twice, a major solo exhibition by Mark Bradford (Los Angeles), one of the leading names in contemporary American art. This is the artist’s first exhibition in New York since 2015, and it sees him embarking on a deeply personal exploration of the multifaceted nature of displacement and the predatory forces that feed off the populations propelled into movement by crisis. Known primarily for his social abstractionism, Bradford has recently turned his attention to figures, including his own, and created radical new works in which flora and fauna move within dense, dreamlike abstract landscapes, masses of matter, color and line.

The second floor of the exhibition includes a group of recent paintings influenced by the history of European tapestry and its socio-political significance as symbols of the utmost opulence of the European aristocracy and, by extension, their relationship to power. Shown here for the first time since their first exhibition at Fundação de Serralves in Porto in late 2021, these works are complemented by new tapestry-like paintings focused on plant and animal species indigenous to the area around Blackdom, an early 20th-century African American settlement founded in the New Mexico desert, far from the reach of the racist South. The central figure in these richly layered monumental paintings is the main predator of the Chihuahan Desert, the jaguar (Panthera onca), the only living member of the genus Panthera native to the Americas.

The juxtaposition of the paintings in the two tapestry series generates a strong connection between history and the present, suggesting that the medieval period is a resonant metaphor for the modern conflicts and social tensions that have been going on for centuries and remain intractable today. In terms of form, Bradford’s tapestry-like works shift perspective in his production: we move from the aerial bird’s-eye view of the cityscape, familiar in his work since the early 2000s, to an interpersonal point of view that brings the audience face to face with his allegorical world of survival, violence, and desire. This major shift in orientation engages the viewer in the pursuit and is a point of departure in Bradford’s work that places the figure as the starting point of his abstraction.

The exhibition also features a group of monumental canvases (including the exhibition’s eponymous painting, You Don’t Have to Tell Me Twice from 2023) that continue Bradford’s ongoing exploration of the Great Migration of African Americans from the South, perhaps the largest movement of people in the nation’s history. Based on a chart showing travel distances between railroad centers in the 1920s United States, these paintings feature gridded numbers and city names created with oxidized paper and putty, forming a veritable parallel landscape of the continental United States. In these works, the vibrant palette of Bradford’s tapestry paintings gives way to more muted tones of stained canvas and oxidized paper and muted grays, bronze tones, and whites in a sober evocation of the urgency to uproot in the face of catastrophe. The titles of the paintings recall an imagined (but equally resonant and historically torn) incarnation of the South, William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknaptawpha County, the Mississippi setting for almost all of Faulkner’s novels, beginning with 1929’s Sartoris .

There are also two self-portraits. Death Drop, 1973 from 1973 (a scene from a Super 8 film Bradford directed at age 12) depicts the artist falling as if struck by a bullet. The slow-motion clip loops in a gallery on the building’s second floor. Three floors above, here instead is Death Drop, 2023’s 2023, an exaggerated sculpture of the artist’s body positioned in the iconic “death drop” pose precisely, popularized by gay culture. Together, the works form autobiographical bookmarks that shift the focus from the natural landscape of the paintings to a figure escaping through them,

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Mark Bradford is best known for his large-scale paintings that explore the socio-political potential of abstraction through a rigorous approach to painting. Bradford’s practice examines the political and environmental conditions that continue to disproportionately affect the most marginalized populations. Within both historical and contemporary frameworks, Bradford has created a significant body of work that elucidates these issues, such as the AIDS epidemic, the misrepresentation and fear of queer identity, and systemic and institutionalized racism in America.

Bradford has been widely exhibited internationally and is the recipient of numerous awards including the U.S. State Department’s Medal of Arts in 2014, a National Academician designation in 2013, and a MacArthur Fellowship Award in 2009. In 2017, Bradford represented the United States at the 57th Venice Biennale. Public commissions of his work include Pickett’s Charge, a monumental site-specific installation for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and We The People, a site-specific work for the new U.S. Embassy in London that includes 32 panels with selected text from the U.S. Constitution.

For all information about the exhibition you can visit the Hauser & Wirth website.

Image: Mark Bradford, Fire fire (2021; mixed media on three panels, 346.4 x 687.7 cm)

New York, at Hauser & Wirth a major solo exhibition by Mark Bradford
New York, at Hauser & Wirth a major solo exhibition by Mark Bradford

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