Mark Bradford: Merchant Posters
This book gathers for the first time an extensive selection of American artist—or “builder and demolisher,” as he describes himself—Mark Bradford’s (born 1961) gorgeous, searing and heavily textured “merchant posters.” The original printed posters, collected by Bradford from around his Central Los Angeles neighborhood, are brightly colored local advertisements that target the area’s vulnerable lower-income residents. For Bradford, they serve as both the formal and conceptual underpinnings of his works on paper, décollages/collages that engage with the pressures of the cityscape. “The sheer density of advertising creates a psychic mass, an overlay that can sometimes be very tense or aggressive,” he notes. “If there’s a 20-foot wall with one advertisement for a movie about war, then you have the repetition of the same image over and over—war, violence, explosions, things being blown apart. As a citizen, you have to participate in that every day. You have to walk by until it’s changed.”
Merchant Posters is the first large-scale publication by a major publisher about the work of this important and influential artist. Artist and writer Malik Gaines considers Bradford’s play with signs in relation to literary and performative theories of African-American forms; writer and cultural critic Ernest Hardy addresses social issues, in Los Angeles and more broadly, raised by Bradford’s source material; Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson examines the language in the work as it relates to Concrete poetry; and former LA MOCA and Dia Art Foundation Director Philippe Vergne looks at the surface of the work and Bradford’s processes of mining and excavation.