Posts Tagged ‘Boston’


Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

After a wonderful evening of listening to free improvisation at the Outpost in Cambridge last night, I took part in a discussion about the phrase “you have to learn the rules before you break them.” It was agreed that it was a relatively meaningless phrase. However, the beauty of the music that proceeded the discussion showed that certain rules were indeed in play. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that they all shared a language that allowed everyone there to mine possibilities and construct some rather varied “instant compositions” without unintentionally stepping on the feet of the other musicians. I say unintentionally because there was some rather purposeful stomping going on. I guess the idea is that you have to know which rules are in play to take advantage of them, because—whether you like or not—there are always rules.

Mark Bradford at the Institute of Contemporary Art

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Mark Bradford at the Institute of Contemporary Art,
Boston, Nov. 19, 2010—March 13, 2011

In text found on the ICA website, 2009 MacArthur Fellow Bradford is said to explore “issues of class, race, and gender in American urban society.” That may be true, but those issues are only the starting point for works which are ultimately a feast for the retina. At the end of the day, formal concerns which include surface texture, color, and edge are what make his best work successful.

His layering of found paper, such as commercially printed posters and billboards—and the use of string to draw dimensionally—provide a wonderfully mysterious surface which he partially excavates and covers with sanding, painting and collaging. Organizationally many of the large works in the show resemble maps or overhead shots of cities, but this aspect of the work is not really a key to understanding what’s going on. Rather, it is color, the dimensionality of the surface, and the partially revealed shapes which animate the surface—in this, he is an artist with very traditional concerns. That said, this a show you should not miss.