When you're a 6'8” black man living in LA, and working in your mother's Hair Salon, you might think a career as an artist would be the furthest thing from your mind --unless you're Mark Bradford that is.
In interviews he describes his upbringing as working-class, and even though his family was dynamic and creative, the number one priority was making a living. So in his words, “Being an artist was really a class thing, and not a conversation had in his house”.
But when someone has the heart of an artist... that passion can, and often does, chart a different course.
Mark Bradford was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, California. At the age of 30 he enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts in 1991 where he earned an MFA in 1997 and a BFA in 1995.Bradford describes his work as “paintings”, but there is much more to them than mere paint on a canvas. Specifically they are collages of found material which he then paints. The 'found material' he uses are usually called merchant posters, advertising DNA testing, deliveries of propane to FEMA trailers and posters soliciting pawn stores and the like. He only collects posters from the street that represent self-run businesses that are about fringe economies, and he's said he is “fascinated by things that fall between the cracks of the middle-class.” His work is big, bold, and impactful.
According to one interview, “He uses abstraction to interpret race relations, socioeconomic tensions and gender stereotypes from his perspective as a black, gay man living and working in South Central LA.
Uncomfortable in crowds all his life because of his height, he also possesses an innate sense of confidence creating his art.
In addition to critical acclaim, Mark Bradford has won the Nancy Graves Foundation Grant in 2002, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in 2003, the Bucksbaum Award in 2006, and most recently was a 2009 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship Award.
Check out this video featuring an interview and work of Mark Bradford:
He is an amazing talent and a gay artist we should all be proud of.