” Mark Bradford transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall-sized collages and installations that respond to the impromptu networks—underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public space—that emerge within a city. Drawing from the diverse cultural and geographic makeup of his southern Californian community, Bradford’s work is as informed by his personal background as a third- generation merchant there as it is by the tradition of abstract painting developed worldwide in the 20th Century. Bradford’s videos and map-like, multilayered paper collages refer not only to the organization of streets and buildings in downtown Los Angeles, but also to images of crowds, ranging from civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s to contemporary protests concerning immigration issues….” – Art 21
DMA STATE OF THE ARTS: CONVERSATION WITH ARTISTS VICKI MEEK AND MARK BRADFORD
A conversation with Mark Bradford is not about being dumbfounded. Some artists want to impress you so much with their intelligence and their ability to talk, that their lectures suffer. As they speak in a monotone voice about past artists, your eyes begin to focus on the carpet or the lady with the bird’s nest for hair. And somehow, after all the explanations, their art can still make you mutter “Much Ado about Nothing”. However Bradford’s work and lectures do neither. He is energetic, humorous, serious about his work and full of information. He is more than willing to take pictures with you, answer your questions and sign catalogs. His humor in companion with artist Vicki Meek made the night an amazing get away for myself and a few friends. We all walked away with a bit of advice, an autograph from Mark Bradford and memories. We were instantly inspired and believed we could one day sign books and take pictures with art students. What we doubted on the drive to Dallas, no longer existed when we walked out of the museum and onto the dewy streets of downtown Dallas.
I’m not sure if the Dallas Museum of Art recorded the lecture for Youtube or podcasts, but I am more than willing to share the a few points that I found most rewarding.
ART AND COMMUNITY one cannot exist without the other. It is interesting that in some communities the arts are appreciated as a creative outlet while in others it will only be appreciated if it has some form of monetary value. Vicki Meek is an artist but also an activist and creative force in South Dallas. She is the director of the South Dallas Cultural Center that specializes in teaching the history of Africa and its Diaspora through various forms of art such as dance, theater, visual arts (collage, jewelry making, photography, painting etc) ,music and writing. These programs are free for students within the community and are full every year! She also has programs for adults. I often wondered if I could be an artist and give back to the community in a real way. Not just by giving a lecture and getting paid to do so, but by really working with children and teenagers who are not given this opportunity in their everyday education. People underestimate the gravity that art can have on a person that lives in a place with little success and little hope. Blacks have become identifiable, flat, and lack multiplicity. We talk loud, sing, dance, play basketball, and if we’re lucky we can be Obamas. Through the arts, Meek teaches children that they can be more than what is perpetuated on television, movies, and music. While Meek aides in the development of an artistic community, Bradford uses the community as source material for his artwork.
THE PROCESS is not a vision from God. Whoever introduced
this idea should be taught the definition of the word. And just in case you did not know, process is a series of actions and steps taken to achieve an end. The process is work and inspiration is…..always in flux for lack of a better term. Again Bradford and Meek are on two different ends of the spectrum. Bradford is in high demand and pumps out work like a machine while Meek does one to three shows a year. Meek works from all day everyday developing programs for the South Dallas Cultural Center and then goes home to design installations. Bradford is in the studio from 8am to 8pm with 2 assistants (one of whom is from his South Central Community) and work regardless of whether or not he feels like it. YOU HAVE TO WORK.NOT WORKING IS NOT AN OPTION. Bradford stressed that ” An artist cannot avoid making. There is an emphasis in art schools today to talk about your work versus manipulating material. And I aim to work because that is what I do.”
BLACK ARTIST and the connotations that are attached to the words will forever plague artists of color. While Meek has no problem being identified as a black artist, she knows that some of the connotations attatched to the terms indeed fit her work. Meek is interested in discussing the human conditions of blacks through visual elements. She is a black artist. She stated due to her age , she has no choice as to how the art world identifies her. The generational gap is evident again as Bradford states “I don’t care what. I never cared. I went to New York one day as Black and came back as Post- Black. ” The audience burst into laughter. ” I don’t care. You can call me artist, black artist, African American artist, I really don’t care but don’t tell me what that means. Don’t tell me what being a black artist is suppose to be because I am my own person. ”
Feel free to ask any questions about the lecture. I will be more than willing to answer. Grab a few friends and make the three hour trek to Dallas. Viewing Bradford’s work will be worth the drive.