BMA To Present Mark Bradford's "Tomorrow Is Another Day," Featured in 2017 Venice Biennale
Bradford increases his civic engagement through a collaboration with Greenmount West Community Center and other community organizations in Baltimore
The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announces it will present Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day, the current exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, from September 2018 through March 2019. 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 Endowed Chair of Modern American Art at Stony Brook University, Tomorrow Is Another Day is a multilayered narrative of new and existing work by Bradford in a variety of media—painting, sculpture, installation art, and video. These works reflect the artist’s longtime social and intellectual interests, most notably in marginalized populations, and reveal his belief in art’s ability to expose contradictory histories and inspire action in the present day. The Baltimore exhibition will also include a new site-specific installation, a spectacular painterly “waterfall” that sweeps through the East Lobby to the second floor, adjacent to the galleries featuring Tomorrow Is Another Day.
An integral element of Bradford’s engagement in Baltimore is a partnership with Greenmount West Community Center (GWCC), a vital gathering place for adults, children, and youth living two miles south of the museum. Through a program of structured activities and open dialogue, the community center provides a safe and positive environment for underserved local youth to create, learn, and share. Bradford and his studio will provide the skills-based training and equipment to begin a silk-screening project at the GWCC with assistance from Noisy Tenants, a Baltimore-based organization that connects businesses and communities for innovative projects. Bradford’s involvement with GWCC parallels his community engagement initiative in Venice, where he collaborated on a new store for Rio Terà dei Pensieri, a social cooperative nonprofit that provides opportunities for men and women incarcerated in Venice to create artisanal goods and other products and supports their re-integration into society.
“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 his 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, and I’m confident that Mark’s partnership with Greenmount West Community Center will be transformative, for both the center and the BMA. We are honored to share these two vital and inextricable sides of Mark with the city.”
“I am beyond thrilled to work with such a socially committed artist,” said Greenmount West Community Association President Kisha L. Webster. “This partnership with the BMA and Mark Bradford will help us greatly expand our resources to better serve the youth in our community.”
The Los Angeles-based artist, a leading figure in contemporary art, is 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 education and culture by supporting the needs of foster youth predominantly living 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 that contemporary artists can reinvent the world we share.
“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. Simultaneously, my collaboration with Greenmount West Community Center is an essential part of my process, creating sustainable platforms for people who don’t have these opportunities.”
TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY
Tomorrow Is Another Day takes visitors through a progression of installations that incorporate themes and figures from Bradford’s personal life, Greek mythology, and the universe. The works from Venice include Hephaestus, two large slabs of marble 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. Spoiled Foot is 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, also draws from the story of Hephaestus, the god of artists and makers. The Odyssey series 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 sculptural work, Medusa, a heaping and tangled mass of black bleached paper inspired by accounts of her as a beautiful and powerful woman wronged by Poseidon. Oracle, currently installed in the Rotunda of the U.S. Pavilion, evokes the feeling of being immersed in an archaeological ruin with twisted and bleached paper spiraling the domed ceiling and winding around other architectural details.
A new suite of monumental abstract canvases, including the exhibition title’s namesake, Tomorrow is Another Day, were 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” is 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. Though Melvin’s old, ill-fitting clothing and the poor, urban neighborhood surrounding him are heightened by the objectifying angle of the camera, his energetic gait conveys the hope of walking into another tomorrow.