Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art celebrates 40th anniversary of its MATRIX exhibition series

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Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art celebrates 40th anniversary of its MATRIX exhibition series
Mark Bradford, Pull Painting (Detail).

HARTFORD, CONN.- Continuing the 40th anniversary celebration of its groundbreaking MATRIX exhibition series, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art presents, “Mark Bradford / MATRIX 172,” June 4 – Sept. 6, 2015.

Mark Bradford (American, born 1961) grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where the everyday realities of the local community and urban landscape inform his racially and politically charged work. Known for his tactile, map-like collage paintings, Bradford’s trademark monumental, mixed-media abstractions layer string and advertising posters stripped from the streets of his notoriously rough neighborhood, where he maintains his studio. In his work, the layered merchant posters are largely painted over and sanded down, but offer glimpses of texts that betray the area’s problematic social and economic issues. Ads for bail bonds businesses, money-cashing stores, and paternity- and disease-testing clinics target and prey upon the grim realities of the poor, inner-city community. These social and political interests intrinsic to Bradford’s “post-black” work are symbolically represented, veiled in abstraction. “

“As I set out to plan the 40th year of MATRIX, I looked at artists whose work embodied the program’s origins as a forum for art that is challenging and relevant,” said Patricia Hickson, the Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art. “Mark Bradford’s MATRIX project will not only be provocative, but it will celebrate a landmark moment for the museum. We are thrilled to be working with such a creative force for MATRIX 172.”

For Bradford’s MATRIX project, he created a site-specific wall drawing inspired by Sol LeWitt, the conceptual artist and Hartford native who is the source of the “wall drawing” art form, of which there are four on view in the museum. Along the 60-foot wall in MATRIX’s Bunce Gallery, Bradford applied dense layers of vibrantly colored paper, paint and rope, which he then sanded, peeled, stripped and cut away from the wall to create a vivid and textured composition. Akin to an excavation, Bradford’s installation becomes a metaphor for 40 years (or layers) of MATRIX history at the museum. The wall drawing is accompanied by two recent “pull paintings” by the artist, a new technique he developed through the process of making MATRIX wall drawing tests in the studio.

Bradford has also designed a limited-edition poster to celebrate the 40th anniversary year of MATRIX—a fitting commemoration given that the program’s inaugural MATRIX poster was designed by Sol LeWitt in 1975.

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