Mark Bradford at Sikkema Jenkins

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For his second solo-show at Sikkema Jenkins & CO., Mark Badford has created a series of large scale (approximatel 8′ x 12′) collage works. What I really enjoyed about these wall pieces is that they initially look like giant maps – intricate topographies of cities – and as one approaches them, tiny colorful details become apparent. Carefully looking at the works creates the effect of zooming in from an arial view to a street level view of a cityscape. According to the press release, these large scale rectangular collages are entirely made from found materials, materials that Mark gathers as he goes out into the city. In practice the works are commodified step children of the dadaist and situationist city expeditions – dérive – a “technique of locomtion without a goal.” However rather than drifting without motive, Bradford drifts through Los Angeles with the goal of gather materials to assemble precious art works.

Mark Bradford collage

As one studies the collages up close, the content appears to be primarily from comic books as Spider Man and Hellboy begin to pop out.

Mark Bradford collage

I’d love to know Marks process in creating these pieces. In studying them it looks as if he layered pages from comic books and magazines onto a large canvas and then topped it all off with reflective silver foam board. Once all the materials have settled down, he creates the topography with a router. Of course, I’m just guessing, I’d be surprised if this is his process because of how well the details show up in the final product.

Mark Bradford collage

There’s a much better image on the Sikkema Jenkins site, but here’s a detail:

Mark Bradford collage

As much as I enjoyed these large scale, attractive collages, in considering Mark’s work, I remembered what he did for inSite05 (a biennial-like exhibition that exits between San Diego and Tijuana) and recognized why I’m so drawing to work that exits in the public space and functions through a network of people.

With inSite05 Bradford organized the “Maleteros” project.  On the Tijuana side of the border, there are people who sell their service as bell boys for pedestrian border crossers.  These men will carry ones things from the point of entry to the nearest taxi for a small wage.  In collaboration with these guys and the Mexican border police, Mark organized these disparate workers into an institionalized version by giving them vests that would identify them as border bell boys and got them stations to place their hand carts and shopping carts.

Bradford’s “Maleteros” brings up all sorts of problems – is this a positive intervention, is it merely a brief imposition onto a foreign labor space by an artist for the length of an exhibition or does it propose a more organized system to a labor space that may be adopted or at least considered?  Either way such cultural work is adventurous for these reasons, by creating a situation in a social space, all sorts of consequences become possible and to me that is art.  I view this as art because it’s not a closed or individualistic process that ends as an object to be sold to a wealthy patron, rather it is an idea advanced into a situation with all sorts of possibilities.

Written by ricardo

February 28th, 2008 at 8:23 am

Posted in fine_arts

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