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Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) To Host U.S. Debut of Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day

BALTIMORE, MD – The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announces the U.S. debut of Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day from September 23, 2018, through March 3, 2019. First presented at the U.S. Pavilion as part of the 2017 Venice Biennale, the exhibition is co-curated by Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director and Commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion, and Katy Siegel, BMA Senior Programming and Research Curator and Thaw Chair of Modern American Art at Stony Brook University. Tomorrow Is Another Day is a complex, multi-layered narrative by Bradford using a variety of media—painting, sculpture, and video. Together, these works reflect the artist’s longstanding interest in how communities—particularly those which have been traditionally marginalized—address issues of social and economic justice, as well as his belief in art’s ability to expose contradictory histories and inspire action in the present day.

An integral aspect of Bradford’s engagement in Baltimore is his partnership with Greenmount West Community Center (GWCC), a community art space for children and families two miles south of the museum. The community center provides a safe and positive environment for underserved local youth to create, learn, and share through a program of structured activities and open dialogue. Bradford provided the skills-based training and equipment needed for a silk-screening program at the GWCC with assistance from Noisy Tenants, an entrepreneurial organization that helps communities solve problems they care about by tapping into their inherent creativity, relationships, and resources. Silk-screened t-shirts and tote bags created by the GWCC will be available for purchase in a pop-up shop at the BMA adjacent to the exhibition. Bradford’s involvement with GWCC parallels his community engagement initiative in Venice, Italy, where he began a six-year partnership with the social cooperative nonprofit Rio Terà dei Pensieri, providing opportunities for men and women incarcerated in Venice to create artisanal goods and other products and supporting their reintegration into society. The partnership, called Process Collettivo, supported the opening of a retail store and aims to increase employment and training opportunities for these incarcerated individuals.

“Mark’s work is always rooted in the specific needs and conditions of the communities he partners with. This conviction is as central to him as the use of paper is to his practice as an abstract painter,” said BMA Director Christopher Bedford. “I know the deeply personal exhibition he created for the U.S. Pavilion in Venice will resonate with many who live in or visit Baltimore. We are honored to share these two vital and inextricable sides of Mark—the artist and the community-builder—with the city.”

The Los Angeles-based artist, a leading figure in contemporary art, is best known for his abstract paintings and collage-based works that recapture mid-century American art’s capacity to conjure the sublime and evoke deep feeling, while incorporating layers of social and personal commentary. Bradford is deeply engaged with social issues as co-founder of Los Angeles-based nonprofit Art + Practice, which encourages cultural education by supporting the needs of foster youth living predominantly in South Los Angeles, and providing access to free, museum-curated art exhibitions and moderated art lectures to the community of Leimert Park. The artist’s equivalent commitments to formal intervention and social activism anchor his contribution to culture at large and embody his belief in the power of art to affect positive change.

“Tomorrow Is Another Day addresses the difficulties experienced by so many others who are trying to create foundations for themselves and find their footing,” said Bradford. “The exhibition is not just about me, but about all of those who feel like they’re on the periphery. My collaboration with Greenmount West Community Center is a part of this process, creating sustainable platforms for people who don’t have these opportunities.”

Tomorrow Is Another Day features installations from Venice that incorporate themes and figures from Bradford’s personal life, Greek mythology, and the universe. Visitors to the BMA’s Contemporary Wing will first encounter Hephaestus (2017), two large cement slabs engraved with a poem by Bradford that draws from the story of Hephaestus, son of the Greek goddess Hera, who was cast from Mount Olympus for being born lame. They flank the entrance to Spoiled Foot (2016), a suspended swollen mass with a black and red pockmarked surface that bears down on visitors, pushing them to the periphery of the room. The work’s title, Spoiled Foot, is another reference to the story of Hephaestus, the god of artists and makers. The Odyssey series (2016-17) is a suite of three shimmering black-purple paintings made of endpapers, a material Bradford used in his early works from the 2000s and knew from working alongside his mother for decades in her beauty salon. These works surround the sculpture Medusa (2016), a heaping and tangled mass of black bleached paper inspired by accounts of the mythological figure as a beautiful and powerful woman wronged by Poseidon.

A suite of monumental abstract canvases, including the exhibition title’s namesake, Tomorrow Is Another Day (2016), was created with commercial paper that the artist bleached, soaked, and molded by hand. They suggest both biology and the heavens, as their circles and lines evoke cells and the body as well as planets. The exhibition concludes with Niagara (2005), a video that takes on new meaning as Black identity continues to evolve and “Black Lives Matter” remains an ongoing national conversation. The video depicts Melvin, the artist’s former neighbor, walking away from the camera, just as Marilyn Monroe did in the 1953 film of the same name. Despite the objectifying view of the camera, Melvin’s energetic gait conveys the hope of walking into another tomorrow.

Mark Bradford was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, where he lives and works. He received a BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Best known for his large-scale abstract paintings that examine the class-, race-, and gender-based economies that structure urban society in the United States, Bradford’s richly layered and collaged canvases represent a connection to the social world through materials. Bradford uses fragments of found posters, billboards, newsprint, and custom-printed paper to simultaneously engage with and advance the formal traditions of abstract painting. Solo exhibitions include Mark Bradford: Receive Calls on Your Cell Phone From Jail at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis (2016); Tears of a Tree at the Rockbund Art Museum (2015); Scorched Earth at the Hammer Museum (2015); Sea Monsters at the Rose Art Museum (2014), Mark Bradford at Aspen Art Museum (2010); Maps and Manifests at Cincinnati Art Museum (2008); and Neither New Nor Correct at the Whitney Museum of American Art (2007). Bradford has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the U.S. Department of State’s Medal of Arts in 2014 and a MacArthur Fellowship Award in 2009. In 2010, Mark Bradford, a large-scale survey of his work, was organized by Christopher Bedford and presented at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, before traveling to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His work has been widely exhibited and has been included in group shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014), Whitney Museum of American Art (2013), the 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011), Seoul Biennial (2010), the Carnegie International (2008), São Paulo Biennial (2006), and Whitney Biennial (2006). Pickett’s Charge, a monumental commissioned cyclorama of paintings is on view at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., through November 12, 2018.

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Mark Bradford. Go Tell It on the Mountain. 2016. Glenstone Museum, Potomac, Maryland. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Joshua White