When It Stops Snowing, 2010
Known for his expansive multi-layered collaged paintings incorporating materials found in the urban environment, Mark Bradford’s work addresses spontaneous systems and networks that materialise within cities, such as alternative economic exchange, itinerant communities, and other socio-political pathways. Visually complex and often cartographic in form, Bradford’s paintings incorporate elements of the everyday – from end papers used for perming hair (associated with his background in hairdressing) to remnants of billboard posters, polyester cord, caulking, bleaching agents and carbon paper. Using such materials gathered within the locale of his studio in South Central Los Angeles, Bradford’s paintings are ostensibly abstract in a formal sense, but referential in content. At first glance, the work corresponds with that of ‘Affichiste’ artists such as Raymond Hains and Jacques Villeglé; yet Bradford is less concerned with a commentary on consumerism, than with the specific conditions that shape communities. This is most clearly identified in the works featuring what he terms as ‘merchant posters’ found in his immediate neighbourhood. Affixed to cyclone fencing, erected around buildings left derelict after the 1992 Los Angeles riots, these billposters advertise, in bold graphics, services targeted directly at local inhabitants. The topics – ranging from foreclosure and paternity testing to loan credit and pest control – coalesce to form a narrative of desolation and, as Bradford has observed, reveal ‘the invisible underbelly of a community’.