L.A. artist Mark Bradford wins MacArthur Fellowship
L.A. artist Mark Bradford, 47, has won lots of prestigious prizes in the past, including the Bucksbaum Award (2006), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003) and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2002). Tuesday he nabs the Big One: a 2009 MacArthur Fellowship.
New York painter Rackstraw Downes, 70, and San Francisco digital artist Camille Utterback, 39, also received a MacArthur nod.
Most of Bradford's work fuses collage, which sticks together fragments of found images and signs scavenged from the street, and decollage -- its opposite, which tears images and signs asunder. His subjects are small, like daily life in an urban neighborhood, recorded in hand-bills and homemade fliers posted on fences and telephone poles; and they're also monumental, like Hurricane Katrina and the trauma of an entire city, evoked in an extraordinary, 64-foot-long ark he built last year in a Leimert Park vacant lot (pictured), then "sailed" off to an exhibition in New Orleans.
Either way the work holds in tension a continuous cycle of society coming apart at the seams, patching itself back together and then coming apart again. Many of his paintings suggest maps -- charts of a tortuous but beautiful terrain that is external and internal, at once physical, social and personal.
One of my favorite Bradford works twists this experience into knots. It's a video excerpted below, when he was profiled two seasons ago on the unusually good PBS series "Art:21." (The series' new season, incidentally, begins Oct. 7.) It shows the artist on a neighborhood basketball court shooting hoops, but he's not wearing the usual uniform. Instead, Bradford is dressed in an enormous, antebellum hoop-skirt stitched together in Lakers team-colors. Funny, poignant and absurd, the video lets us witness the artist struggling, falling down, making an apparent fool of himself and -- oh, yes -- never missing a shot.
Photo: Mark Bradford's "Disappear Like a Dope fiend," 2006; credit: Sikkema and Jones; and, untitled 2008 ark-sculpture, 22 feet high and 64 feet long; credit: Lisa Lyons