Mark Bradford Explores Blackness in Shade

Through July 16, 2017

With the Juneteenth Music Festival (June 17) and the Colorado Black Arts Festival (July 7-9), this summer the Denver metro area will be celebrating black history, culture, and art. Here at the DAM through July 16, we’re showcasing Mark Bradford, one of the stars of the contemporary art world, in Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford.

About the Artist

Bradford, a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called “genius grant”) is currently representing the United States in the prestigious Venice Biennale and, according to Rebecca Hart, Vicki and Kent Logan Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, he "is one of the most important American artists working today."

"His abstractions unite high art and popular culture as unorthodox tableaux of unequivocal beauty," Hart said. "Working in both paint and collage, Bradford incorporates elements from his daily life into his canvases: remnants of found posters and billboards, graffitied stencils and logos, and hairdresser’s permanent endpapers he’s collected from his other profession as a stylist." (He worked in his mother's salon in Los Angeles when he was younger and went to art school when he was 30).

He is also part of a century-long tradition of black artists—such as Alma Thomas, Ed Clark, Norman Lewis, and Jack Whitten—who choose to work in abstraction. For decades these masterful artists were relegated to the sidelines of the dominant narratives of art history.

A black and white photo of black men marching in the 1950s with signs saying I am a Man and a color photo of Black Lives Matters protestors
Two of the photos in the Shade exhibition that depict some of the civil-rights issues that influenced Bradford's work.

About the Exhibition

Shade is a collaborative, two-venue exhibition with the Clyfford Still Museum (CSM). At the DAM, you can see new works by Bradford (inspired by and created in response to Still). These abstract paintings examine issues of race, sexuality, and identity, responding to events like the riots in LA in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Your ticket to Shade also allows you to see works by Clyfford Still next door at the Clyfford Still Museum that were selected in collaboration with Bradford. The selection reveals Bradford’s appreciation for Still’s frequent use of black.

“While black and shades close to black held special significance for many of the abstract expressionists—Robert Motherwell’s Elegies and the late works of Pollock and Rothko come to mind—Still had a unique and recurring relationship to it,” said CSM director Dean Sobel. “Still even declared, ‘Black was never a color of death or terror for me. I think of it as warm—and generative.”

Admission at the DAM and CSM is included in the price of general admission, which can be purchased online for $8–$13 for nonmember adults; tickets are free for members and youth under 18.

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Carleen Brice edits the blog and On & Off the Wall, the member magazine for the Denver Art Museum. Carleen has been at the DAM since 2013. She recommends visitors don't miss Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford.