What Else Can Art Do?

Mark Bradford is the tallest artist I know—six feet seven and a half inches, and pencil thin, which makes him look taller. His paintings, as you’d expect, run large. When I visited Bradford’s industrial-sized studio, in South Los Angeles, this spring, one wall was almost entirely covered by a huge outline map of the United States, with clusters of numbers that represented the AIDS cases reported in each state up to 2009. The map was a study for a much larger one that he planned for a wall at the Hammer Museum, in Los Angeles, where an exhibition of his new work opens on June 20th. “These are for the Hammer, too,” he said, waving toward three abstract paintings on another wall. “They’re all based on AIDS cells under a microscope. I don’t want to say the show is about AIDS, but it’s about the body, and about my relationship to the nineteen-eighties, when all that stuff hit. It’s my using a particular moment and abstracting it.”

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What Else Can Art Do?

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