ANDERSON COOPER is a CNN anchor, 60 Minutes correspondent, and art collector who owns works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Mark Bradford. Called “The Hood is Moody,” his Bradford work is made with end papers—rectangles of white tissue paper used to set hair.
On Sunday, Cooper profiled Bradford on “60 Minutes,” introducing the artist as “widely considered one of the most important and influential artists in America today.”
Bradford was nearly 30 when he first attended an art class, eventually earning BFA and MFA degrees from the California Institute of the Arts. The artist’s first career was working at Foxy Hair, his mother’s beauty shop. Using materials from the hair salon to make “paintings” was a way to bridge the two worlds, insert his narrative into the work, and minimize expenses for art supplies.
Today, Bradford, 57, continues to use end papers and a variety of other paper products to make his mixed-media works. The paintings focus on a wide range of contemporary and historic social-justice and political issues such as cash bail, HIV/AIDS, police killing black men, and the 1965 Watts Riots.
“His art is interesting to look at. Whether you like it or not, whether you understand it or not, it is compelling and there is meaning to it,” Cooper says.
“His art is interesting to look at. Whether you like it or not, whether you understand it or not, it is compelling and there is meaning to it.”
— Anderson Cooper
“60 MINUTES,” the long-running CBS program, has profiled a handful of visual artists over the years, including Christo & Jeanne-Claude and Ai Weiwei. Last year, Cooper talked to French artist JR. Two weeks ago, the network interviewed Simone Leigh.
Bradford has become something of a phenomenon in the contemporary art world. After selling his first painting in 2001 for $5,000, Bradford continued to gain recognition steadily.
More recently, in 2017, he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale, presenting a solo exhibition in the U.S. Pavilion. The same year, he installed “Pickett’s Charge,” an eight-part painting in a 360-degree gallery at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. Referencing the Civil War battle at Gettysburg, the work considers how American history is shaped and contested. Originally scheduled to be on view through November 2018, the exhibition has been so popular it was extended to 2021.
Another monumental painting “Helter Skelter I” (1997) set an artist record at auction in March 2018. It sold for more than $10.3 million (nearly $12 million, fees included) at Phillips London. At the time, it was the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by a living African American artist.
“Mark Bradford: Los Angeles” his largest-ever show in China opens in July at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai.
The artist has always lived and worked in Los Angeles and in 2014, he co-founded Art + Practice in his Leimert Park neighborhood. The multifaceted nonprofit features gallery space for contemporary art exhibitions, presents public programming, and provides support services for foster youth.
On “60 Minutes Overtime,” Anderson Cooper discusses meeting Mark Bradord and the painting he owns by the artist. | Video by 60 Minutes/CBS
BEYOND HIS WORK, a significant aspect of the artist’s appeal is Bradford himself. He is extremely personable, very humorous, and incredibly open about his life and work. His affable personality is showcased during the interview, in which he tells Cooper about being called a sissy starting at age 8 and feeling different for the first time. He said he “never had a problem being me…I just didn’t want to get my ass whooped.”
Bradford still styles hair, occasionally, for longtime clients. Four are featured on the show and admit they don’t really get his art,
Cooper emphasizes that the artist’s work involves paper rather than paint and spends time showing viewers how he makes his paintings, in terms of materials and techniques, including spraying down works in progress with a high-powered garden hose, sand blasting his surfaces, and countless rounds of layering, gluing, ripping, cutting, removing, and revealing.
“I kind of start from a map and then on top of it I think I lay art history and my imagination, all three.” — Mark Bradford
He visits with Bradford in his studio during the early stages of making “Deep Blue,” a monumental painting based on a map of Watts that documents properties destroyed by the 1965 riots. The painting was recently acquired by The Broad museum, which also purchased “Helter Skelter I.”
“I kind of start from a map and then on top of it I think I lay art history and my imagination, all three,” Bradford tells Cooper.
When the correspondent says some people don’t understand abstract painting, Bradford says, “For me, those squiggles and torn paper give me a space to kind of unpack things like the Watts Riots. I’m grappling with how I feel about that subject and that material. I do grapple with things. I grapple with things personally and, you know, racially and politically. What does it mean to be me?” CT
Recent volumes documenting Mark Bradford’s work include “Mark Bradford (Phaidon Contemporary Artist Series)” and the exhibition catalogs “Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day,” “Mark Bradford: Pickett’s Charge,” and “Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth.”
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