Monday, September 21, 2009

Issues & Objects: Found and Assembled

[“Stax” (2009), Mark Bradford, mixed media, paper mache, & collage. “Red Painting” (2009), Mark Bradford, mixed media collage on canvas. “10 Years Massacre (and Its Retelling) #1” (2009), Kara Walker, mixed media, cut paper & acrylic on gessoed panel. “10 Years Massacre (and Its Retelling) #2” (2009), Kara Walker, mixed media, cut paper & acrylic on gessoed panel. “10 Years Massacre (and Its Retelling) #3” (2009), Kara Walker, mixed media, cut paper & acrylic on gessoed panel.]

Divergent areas of abstraction come to the fore in a two-person exhibition of new work by Mark Bradford and Kara Walker showing through October 17th at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Yet both artists share a number of coinciding practices. Employing paper, both Bradford and Walker use collage and assemblage to produce much of their explosive art. In Bradford’s case, this comes from billboards, posters, and magazines combed from the physical milieu of his Los Angeles studio—layered and manipulated to create his “compositions.” Seamlessly, Bradford melds high art and mass culture with those materials into highly referenced, pixelated, unusual, and sometimes map-like works. Walker—who also uses found materials—cuts paper silhouettes to create sculptures, videos, works on paper, and wall installations depicting misogyny, racism, and violence.

Both Bradford and Walker explore social and cultural issues in their ambitious works. While Bradford mines those artifacts of contemporary culture in his neighborhood, he structures them to evoke struggles—past and present—across political, social, and economic lines. Walker, meanwhile, references experiences of slavery and race in America. Of special import in this exhibition is the use of text by both Bradford and Walker. The former appropriates low economy advertising in his merchant posters while the latter—in her own writing—reflects most explicitly upon America’s nightmarish themes, particularly as affecting African-American women.

A large sculpture of collaged soccer balls, looming works on canvas, and small paintings and works on paper are among the offerings of Mark Bradford in this exhibition. Walker presents paper sculptures, assorted works on paper and panel, and two new videos featuring her silhouette puppets. In a confrontational gouache-on-paper set of 20 works, the influence of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is evident: Walker was fond of his work as a child.

While Bradford’s work has been shown in such venues as the Whitney Museum of American Art and Prospect 1 (New Orleans), Walker’s has been presented at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Whitney Museum of American Art, Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), MoMA, and Museum of Modern Art (Fort Worth).

Mark Bradford & Kara Walker

Through October 17, 2009

@ Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

530 West 22nd Street, NYC 10011

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