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Students from South Suburbs find Inspiration in Mark Bradford

Field Trip to the MCA
Field Trip to the MCA
photo by Fredrik Nilsen

Mark Bradford at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago


Say the words "Field Trip" and instantly feel a sense of adventure, excitement and deviation from routine. As an artist and educator who teaches introductory art history to non-art majors, I often find myself on the line between the art world and the general population, trying to coax new converts into the art world and encouraging curiosity and exploration with sometimes elusive works of art.

Prairie State College and Governors State University Students join artist and instructor Jeff Stevenson at the MCA.
Loleta Tramble Black

Students from Governors State University and Prairie State College recently joined me in visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. One class from PSC is a foundations course in 2D Design in which students are just beginning their artistic journey. These students were particularly inspired by Mark Bradford's work as it relates to the design principles they are studying and to see how technique and design have a tremendous effect on content and meaning.

Bradford uses peeling movie posters, homemade flyers, salvaged plywood, and the endpapers used to perm hair. Drawing from pop culture, identity politics, the history of collage, mapping and abstract painting, this exhibit features over 35 works of art including painting, sculpture, installation and video from the past decade of the artist's creative production.

Bradford's work is autobiographical as demonstrated by one of the earliest works in the exhibit "Enter and Exit the New Negro" (2001). Endpapers from his mother's salon were gathered and arranged in rows forming a minimalist composition of soft white and gray tones. The socio-political issue of straightening African-American hair, a black male's connection to a hair salon, and the act of transformation point to Bradford's own story as a Gay Black Man.

My students and I recommend seeing the exhibit, and it ends September 18, 2011 so don't delay.

Mark Bradford was born in 1961 and lives and works in his native Los Angeles, California. He earned his BFA and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. Bradford has received many awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship (2009); Bucksbaum award (2006); the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003); and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2002). His work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions at such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others.