Chance Encounters with Mark Bradford

Although Mark Bradford refers to himself as a painter, his pieces are far from traditional.

By using paper instead of paint and replacing brushes with his hands, he has really made this medium his own. Bradford gathers most of his paper materials from his environment, and layers them into thick, tactile, almost sculptural, artworks. By using this active process, he really considers himself more of a maker or creator than an artist. Initially, some of his supplies came from his mother’s salon, where he spent most of his childhood. Later, he ventured out to the streets of his neighborhood and collected flyers, posters, advertisements, and billboard paper. He typically works on eight pieces over eight months, keeping them all in a state of flux as he adds materials and takes them away by tearing, ripping, and sanding. This method of collage and décollage creates compositions that spontaneously reveal bits and pieces of hidden layers. So, as your eyes move across the canvas, you’re never quite sure what you are going to find next.

One thing that really struck me about this process of artmaking is the element of chance involved. From what Bradford happens to stumble upon in the streets, to what ends up exposed in the final product, there seems to be a constant negotiation between choice and chance. As I walked through the galleries, I really enjoyed searching for those moments where you can see the hand of fate working alongside the hand of the artist. What I noticed most were words and phrases that were inadvertently exposed throughout some of his pieces. Below I reveal just some of the chance encounters you could have with his work, but you’ve got to come to the exhibition to find more!

“Oh my god, AHRQ! What if these weirdos don’t like people just dropping in?”

“Whatever you’re getting is fine.”

“Scathingly funny!”

“Close your eyes”


“…But I think I’d rather hang around here.”

“I had confidence in your razor-sharp instincts.”

“That was supposed to be our secret!”

“I see you’ve been having fun…”

Students can have fun with this too. Using seek and find games, there is a lot to discover in these works. It may also be a fun way to reframe their idea of “mistakes” as (what I often call) happy accidents that can be incorporated into their art pieces.

Want to dig into Mark Bradford’s process a little deeper? Come to next week’s Gallery Talk with artist Diedrick Brackens.

Hope to see you all next Wednesday!

Hannah Burney

McDermott Education Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships

1 Response to “Chance Encounters with Mark Bradford”

  1. 1 Jessica Kennedy November 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I just used a seek and find in the Mark Bradfod exhibition with some 4th graders during our tour today and I was so impressed with how quickly they were able to find things! Great post, Hannah!

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