Mark Bradford

Exhibition: Jul 10 – Sep 7, 2008

The cyclical narration of Bradford’s installation TRAVIS expresses ideas of displacement and transition, tracing such changes back through history.

In keeping with the artist’s ongoing investigation of the relationship between communities and the changes to their physical surroundings, Bradford’s Artpace project explores the history of a building adjacent to Artpace–the Travis Savings and Loan Association. Through primary research—from interviewing local people to consulting archival newspapers and photographs—the artist has deconstructed the enigmatic history of the bank building, using it as a window onto broader events in San Antonio. Drawing attention to the interactions of politicians, community leaders, and national events on a local scale, Bradford reveals underlying dichotomies in the building’s past.

The east wall of the exhibition comprises a large-scale wall installation featuring a decorative pattern found on the exterior of the Travis Savings and Loan Association building. The geometric grid, sketched on top of layers of plaster and newspaper, was created using a metal die-cut stencil. Though the stenciling method implies compositional precision, Bradford allowed imperfections to remain, emphasizing the artist’s hand in the process: elements of the underlying newspaper emerge from beneath the design, and several of the stencils are off-kilter or drawn in reverse. These flaws reflect the convoluted (and often chaotic) history hidden beneath the surface of the seemingly austere Savings and Loan building.

Designed by California artist Millard Sheets in 1967, the edifice draws on myriad architectural sources, including Indian, Persian, and Islamic design, while highlighting local historical events through interior and exterior landscapes and murals. The building’s name–after William Barret Travis, who commanded the Republic of Texas forces and died at the Battle of the Alamo–is chiseled over the original main entrance. Using the same font, Bradford has inscribed the name “Travis” on the west wall of the Artpace exhibition space. Once again, the realization is less than perfect, appearing incomplete and decomposed, as if fading into oblivion from prolonged neglect, mirroring the legacy of the bank.

Bradford’s strategies of historical excavation are clearly defined by the stacked copies of the artist-designed newspaper situated in the corner of the gallery. The newspaper includes a compiled selection of factual newspaper articles written about the building that outline a controversial real estate deal and the discovery of lost historical documents. Images of the building, taken by the artist, comprise the centerfold, while an enigmatic interview with Millard Sheets acts as a footnote. The newspaper also reveals the less glamorous aspects of the edifice by documenting its everyday life, highlighting the history of the people who have lived around, worked in, and used the building.

–Emily Morrison, Curatorial Assistant and Lori Salmon, Graduate Intern


Mark Bradford

Los Angeles, California, USA

Mark Bradford reclaims discarded and forgotten materials from cities where he works, creating paintings, collages, and videos that explore each city’s past. His compositions comment on the social history of various communities and the effect that shifting demographics have had on them.
Mark Bradford was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, CA, where he currently lives and works. He received his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, CA (1997). The artist’s work will appear in the 2008 exhibitions Life on Mars, 55th Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, and the Prospect.1 New Orleans biennial, New Orleans, LA. Recent group exhibitions include Collage: The Unmonumental Picture, The New Museum, New York, NY (2008); Eden’s Edge: Fifteen LA Artists, The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2007); and XXVII São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo, Brazil (2006). He has had solo exhibitions at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH (2008); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2007); World Class Boxing, Miami, FL (2006), and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York, NY (2005).

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Lauri Firstenberg

Los Angeles, CA

Lauri Firstenberg received her Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Harvard University in 2005. She founded LAXART in 2005 – the leading independent nonprofit exhibition space in Los Angeles. She is currently curating the 2008 California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art. Exhibitions Firsenberg has curated at LAXART include Daniel Martinez: How I Fell In Love With My Dirty Bomb, Ruben Ochoa: Extracted, TOROLAB: SOS Emergency Architecture,Lisa Tan: One Night Stand, Michael Queenland: Museum of Romantic Life, Adria Julia: A Means of Passing the Time, amongst others. She co-curated with Anton Vidokle Image Bank for Everyday Revolutionary Life at the Gallery at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theatre), 2006 and Isaac Julien: True North, and Amir Zaki: Spring Through Winter, Mak Center, 2005. Firstenberg was formerly the Assistant Director/Curator of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture and the Schindler House, Los Angeles and Curator of Artists Space, New York. She has contributed to a host of publications on contemporary art including Art Papers, Frieze, Contemporary, Flash Art, Nka, Art Journal, Parkett, Lab 71 amongst others. She is the founder of L’art a new online publication for contemporary art. She is Adjunct Faculty in the Public Art Program at USC Roski School of Art and at Sciarc, Los Angeles.

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