An exquisite example of Mark Bradford’s abstract practice, Scratch Pink
from 2018 powerfully demonstrates the groundbreaking artistic investigation of the contemporary urban experience that has distinguished Bradford as among the most significant and influential artists of his generation. Shimmering upon the canvas, the intricate network of gridded lines and interwoven webbing recalls visions of abstract maps or aerial glimpses of metropolitan sprawl, serving as potent visual signifiers for the modern urban realities and environments that are the primary source material for Bradford’s practice. The title of the present work is particularly evocative of the pioneering process by which the artist creates his kaleidoscopic abstract canvases; working through an extraordinary method of collage and décollage, Bradford first constructs dense layers of paper, then fastidiously scrapes them away, repeatedly adding and eroding in a highly considered and rigorously physical process. An artist born and based in Los Angeles, Bradford has been featured in a number of group exhibitions at the Hammer Museum over the past two decades, and is represented within the museum’s collection by several key works; describing the early and pivotal role the museum has played within his life, Bradford notes: “I’ve been with the Hammer my whole career; they’re like family.” (The artist cited in Exh. Cat., Los Angeles, Hammer Museum, University of California, Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth,
2015, p. 185) Mark Bradford essay third column: change sentence about A+P to: “In 2014, Bradford launched A+P, a nonprofit art and community space in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, and between 2014-2016 the Hammer served as a program partner, curating a number of the first exhibitions in the space. Of the relationship between the Museum and the artist, Connie Butler, Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum, describes: “In much the same way that the Hammer’s institutional mission statement combines art with social engagement through programming, Bradford’s dual mission merges art with political action through a kind of economic reclamation of a small part of a neighborhood undergoing change.” (Ibid.,
p. 22) In 2015, the Hammer Museum presented Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth,
the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in his hometown of Los Angeles, to widespread critical and public acclaim.
Emerging from the saturated, raspberry-hued ground of Scratch Pink, an intricate network of magenta ridges and furrows coalesce to form a mesmerizing cartographic structure; while conjuring images of spider webs, neighborhood streets, and arterial veins, Bradford’s uncertain grid remains resolutely abstract, absorbing the viewer in a mesmerizing vision of prismatic hue. The rich multidimensional nature of the present work is due to Bradford’s signature usage of salvaged paper, painstakingly harvested from the artist’s own urban environs, which he selectively layers, scores, and bleaches upon the canvas in a quasi-archaeological fashion. This material transformation is central to Bradford’s work; through his meticulous excavation of the vestiges of everyday life, he is able to trace the human presence by its own discarded signifiers. Explaining his process in cross-disciplinary terms, Bradford describes the dichotomies in his work: “It’s almost like a rhythm. I’m a builder and a demolisher. I put up so I can tear down. I’m a speculator and a developer. In archaeological terms, I excavate and I build at the same time.” (The artist, cited in “Mark Bradford: Politics, Process and Postmodernism,” Art21, April 1, 2013) Through his intensely physical approach to the material presence of painting, Bradford pursues new frontiers of abstraction, creating a corpus of captivating paintings that merge complex layers of personal and socio-significance to create a mesmeric vision for the inherent decay and subsequent regenerative vibrancy of metropolitan life. Coursing with a stunning vitality that evinces the rigorous physical creation of its variegated surface, Scratch Pink serves as stunning testament to the groundbreaking nature of Bradford’s practice, encapsulating the artist’s virtuosic ability to harvest, incorporate, and transform the linguistic and visual ephemera of his surroundings to reveal new visions of contemporary humanity.