The Easel

Down through the layers: the paintings of Mark Bradford

The buzz around American artist Mark Bradford grows unabated. Once a hairdresser, he now boasts a McArthur “genius” Award, featured artist at the Venice Biennale, auction room stardom and more. Morgan Meis takes a closer look.

“[A]s a hairdresser, you’d never want to forget that, beneath the waves and shine and flow of all that hair, is an actual person. The content matters. It sure as hell matters when you are doing someone’s hair … Bradford’s paintings wiggle back and forth on that tense razor’s edge where the intense and often socially explosive nature of the paintings’ content always threatens to disrupt the aesthetic space of the canvas. Bradford’s work is powerful because these two forces are in conflict, the from-a-distance aesthetic effect versus the freighted social meaning of his raw materials.”