Meet the Artist: Mark Bradford on Materials, Abstraction, and “Amendment #8”
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Meet the Artist: Mark Bradford on Materials, Abstraction, and “Amendment #8”


The materials that I use and have really always used have always been paper. The tools of civilization, how we build and destroy ourself, are the materials that I’m really interested in. Paper is one of the main ways in which information is displayed. Paper in itself is simply a bunch of fragments held together by a binder. I always saw it as pigment dried in a binder, and cut into eight and a half by eleven blocks. Just in my head I thought “oh, well, you just have to wet it so that it can move like paint.” What constitutes a painting and who are the gatekeepers of that? I’m sure that me being a painter was a very political gesture for me. If you’re Black and from South Central you have a lot of identity stuff that you could just fall right into. I just thought “I was going to do abstract work,” but it was going to talk about race, class, culture, and all these things, but I was going to do it from an abstraction place, which gave me freedom. Then I was going to look outside. I wasn’t going to do this kind of hermetic, interior, clothes the world off, which is historically what we understand abstraction as being. I was going to have a relationship with the world and with politics, because I was interested in those things. I was really starting to get very interested in the foundations of our country. The Amendments, or the Bill of Rights, are still what we go to. Interesting enough it is on paper. I mean, it is one of our historical documents, one of our most important documents on paper. We put paper in the photo photocopier, so it’s both precious and not precious at all. It’s both protected by security guards and shredded. ‘Amendment Eight’ is actually part of the ‘Bill of Rights’ series. There are certain fragments that cling to the edges of the composition. Certain words flow in and out, they’re legible and not legible, they hint, but in some ways that’s how we really do understand the dense documents. We will never fully understand they’re so dense, but we pull and we glimmer and we dive and we project onto these documents. At the time of the Constitution, certain people weren’t even human, women didn’t have rights. We moved them forward as the country moves forward. We amend what we excluded in a way. What better place than the Smithsonian to have an ‘Amendment’ painting? It just fits, it makes sense. If you look at what’s going on in the media at the moment with Black male bodies. Me being a Black male and doing an ‘Amendment’ painting and sitting in the Smithsonian – that’s just super layered. – music –

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