the broad

Scorched Earth

Mark Bradford
billboard paper, photomechanical reproductions, acrylic gel medium, carbon paper, acrylic paint, bleach, and additional mixed media on canvas
95 1/4 x 118 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (241.94 x 300.36 x 5.72 cm)


Eli Broad



Mark Bradford’s work is very different from that of other artists. A lot of his work has social commentary to it.



“Scorched Earth” is an interpretive map of Greenwood, a once-thriving area of Tulsa Oklahoma known as “Negro Wall Street,” which was obliterated by a race riot in 1921.


Sheer coincidence brought the events to Bradford’s attention: he was working at his mother’s hair salon when a client suggested he make some art about the event. He was shocked when he started doing research, and dismayed when he hadn’t heard of this tragic story before. Joanne Heyler.



Mark Bradford’s art tends to use very humble materials. And this partly emerges from his earliest days, when quite frankly, he simply couldn't afford paints and the more standard materials that artists use.



Artist Mark Bradford, recorded at The Broad’s UnPrivate Collection series talk.



For me economics instantly comes into play. It’s very difficult if you don’t have a lot of money when you’re getting started to be really really experimental with lots and lots of art paint because it’s just too expensive. It’s a precious medium. Early early on I started using these end papers that came from a hair salon. I could experiment with them because they were $.50 a box. And so this idea of rapid speed and working out ideas through the material I could afford to. So the idea of speed and actually economically what you have access to I think also plays into it.



Here, the end papers create city blocks, the footprints of buildings, and land mass. The pasted-on, scraped away layers form a topography that represents the psychological and physical ruins of a place.

I think art that sends a message, that reflects what’s happening in the world, in our society, is very important. A great work of art is not something that is just pretty or beautiful, it’s something that evokes emotion.