Mark Bradford. Masses and Movements
Hauser & Wirth Gallery. Isla del Rey. Mahón (Menorca). Until October 31
The first thing that catches your attention when entering this exhibition is the space itself, its immaculate white walls, the wooden ceiling of this same color and the nature that sneaks in through the windows. Its creator, Luis Laplace, has taken into account the architecture and materials of the place, playing with the crossed vents and leaving small slits open for the Balearic lizards to circulate at will. These whitewashed ships are anchored in the bucolic Isla del Rey, 15 minutes from Mahón, an enclave of healing since the 18th century, when the English army installed a naval hospital there (now in disuse) that it had as a neighbor, on another islet, to Lazaretto where the sailors were quarantined upon returning from their long voyages.
It is also the scene that the African-American artist has walked through in recent weeks. Mark Bradford (Los Angeles, 1961), which many will remember for his US pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, in which he transformed this Palladian-sounding building into a moderate mix of rubbish and ruin, with which he called the attention to the instability of our time and that coincided with the coming to power of Trump.
Bradford has now been in charge of inaugurating the new space in Menorca of the very powerful Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth, based in several countries. The market treats you well. His gallery does not give prices, but the entire work was already sold before even the opening and, taking a look at its latest bids at Sotheby’s auction house, paintings like the ones in this show have sold for several million dollars. He also has the recognition of institutions, with work in the collections of MoMA or Tate Modern, ongoing projects at the Serralves Museum in Oporto (this fall) and an eminently committed career. “I work with a powerful gallery, yeah, –I commented a few days ago to El Cultural–, but thanks to that I do in the studio what I want. That’s something we can thank in the 21st century, in which more and more women, more people of color, etc. they have access to decision-making ”.
Bradford overlays layers of paper and paint, tears them apart and creates raised surfaces, almost geological strata
In his first individual in Spain, Bradford stays true to maps and data towards those who feel a special attraction. His works always begin with a book, on which he does further research. In the case of Masses and Movements everything revolves around the first world map that had the name ‘America’ printed on it. “Maps are never neutral – tip – somehow Western cartographers have decided where to place Europe, America and Africa.” He approaches them from an archaeological abstraction, creating compositions made from the superimposition of papers of different nature – comics, cardboard, pieces of newspapers, posters … – along with many layers of paint that later he tears to create surfaces in relief, almost geological strata in which many stories accumulate.
Under this abstraction, which is not such, we recognize materials and scraps of this pandemic, the Black Lives Matter or the constant demands of the artist around HIV and, now, the distribution of Covid vaccines in the world. As a novelty, in these new series made between 2020 and 2021 the materials are closer, some of them found in his kitchen during the months of confinement. Colors have lit up and are brighter than before, with an illuminated palette of yellows, pinks, oranges, greens and reds, although black and gray continue to predominate. He works by taking notes, adding layer after layer, and cutting to reveal the background of the compositions.
In the diptych that presides over the main room we found a strong imprint of Jean Dubuffet, the father of art brut, in the forms, in the palette and in the sgraffito. Bradford acknowledges his admiration for the French artist, although his training is by no means self-taught. He studied Fine Arts in California, already 31 years old, after working for a time in his mother’s beauty salon. He also admires Felix Gonzalez-Torres with delight “For his committed message and his poetry. He was the great teacher in approaching the great subjects from delicate materials ”.
The other wing of the exhibition, which is accessed by crossing a courtyard with an impressive chandelier by Louise Bourgeois – the entire complex is populated with outdoor sculptures, another by the French artist, two by Chillida, one by I look and a Franz West– it’s more installer. He continues to work on the idea of a map but in greater dialogue with space. Of particular note are the seven globes in which the painstaking superposition of layers of paint makes the continents look like wrinkled fabrics. Also the phrase engraved on the wall: In the Center Rests the Sun (The sun rests in the center). With them he demands greater “social justice”.
Other galleries in Menorca
There are several galleries that move to the island during the summer months. The veteran Cayón Since 2018 it has been seated in the old Victoria de Mahón Cinema, an impressive space almost 12 meters high where it presents the Carlos Cruz-Díez exhibition until August 27 (Caracas, 1923 – Paris, 2019) Color as action. It brings together works from the last decade of this key figure of the kinetic movement in which the chromatic works from different materials, methacrylate among them, and leaves the walls of the exhibition to stain the blinds of the façade and the pedestrian crossings through the that we arrived at the port.
The Madrid woman also joins the exhibition proposal Albarrán Bourdais with a project that Christian Boltanski (Paris, 1944 – 2021) left without inaugurating. A paradise for this French artist who spoke so much about absence, death and memory: a carte blanche to work in two adjoining houses loaded with the personal belongings of their former tenants. He is accompanied by the Polish Angelika Markul (1977) and can be visited until August 28.
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Mark Bradford, mapping the present