Morgan Meis in The Easel:
For at least a decade now there’s been a buzz about Mark Bradford. People call him an exciting painter. Those two words, “exciting” and “painting,” don’t get put together very often, which is understandable. There is something about painting that promotes a reflective attitude. You look at a painting by standing your distance and contemplating. You can like a painting, love a painting, even be moved by a painting. But excitement? Not so much. What is it about Bradford’s paintings that makes them exciting? The answer, I think, is that Bradford has discovered an approach to abstraction that’s genuinely fresh, genuinely new. No one’s done it quite like this before.
So, let’s get right down to describing what Mark Bradford does when making a painting: He collects stuff. Much of the time, this happens in the city of Los Angeles. Bradford drives around LA, generally close to his neighborhood in South Central, (where he grew up) but ranging wider as the need may be. Born in 1961, he was, beginning as a child, and off and on for years, an assistant in his mother’s hair salon in Leimert Park. After high school, he got himself licensed as a hairdresser so he could work in the shop full time. It was not until Bradford was thirty years old that he entered into any formal art training. He went to CalArts in 1991 and emerged with an MFA in 1997. Twelve years later he picked up a MacArthur “Genius” Award for his paintings and, in 2014, a US Department of State’s Medal of Arts. His paintings currently sell in the two to fifteen million dollar range on the international market. The sticker price is amazing in itself but even more so because his works are physically huge and therefore unwieldy for the collector. Not bad for a late starter.