Behind Mark Bradford's Monumental "Pickett's Charge" Series of Paintings

November 8, 2017

Internationally renowned artist Mark Bradford will present one of the largest selections of his works to date at a show titled Pickett’s Charge, a monumental new commission that spans nearly 400 linear feet. Organized and planned to be hosted by Hirshhorn National Museum of Modern Art, Pickett’s Charge will definitely be an exhibition to keep your eye out for.

Mark Bradford is a Los Angeles–based artist whose body of work is committed to addressing socio-political issues of our contemporary societies, tackling topics such as race, class and gender with great craft. He is also fond of referencing art history throughout his work.

For over two decades now, he's been taking the language of abstraction to new levels by simultaneously incorporating personal experiences and historical references.

Mark Bradford: Pickett's Charge - Hirshhorn Museum

Pickett’s Charge

Pickett’s Charge will demonstrate a large majority of what made Mark Bradford famous in the first place. It will be a show focusing on the artist’s ability to utilize mixed-media collages through which, on this occasion, Bradford re-interpreted the historic Gettysburg imagery.

This latest series includes eight powerful abstract paintings, all made through cutting, tearing and scraping through the layers, a method Bradford uses to reveal the textures and complexities hidden and lurking just beneath the surface.

Each painting prepared for the Pickett’s Charge show is more than forty-five feet long and all eight of them will be displayed together in a way that will allow them to enclose the entire Third Level of the inner-circle galleries.

They will also demonstrate Hirshhorn’s continued commitment to showcasing the ways that artists respond to the unique political and cultural climate of their time, a cause for which this institution organized countless exhibitions and public programs in the past.

Battle Photo
Mark Bradford - Battle Photo

Inspiration Behind the Works

Mark Bradford drew inspiration for this new series of works from the French artist Paul Philippoteaux’s nineteenth-century cyclorama. It depicts Pickett’s Charge, the final charge of the Battle of Gettysburg that many historians see as the critical turning point of the Civil War and, therefore, of the entire American history.

Politically and socially, we are at the edge of another precipice. I’m standing in the middle of a question about where we are as a nation.

The resulting work, which pays homage to the decisive crossroad of the Civil War, shows how crafty Mark Bradford can be when he weaves past and present, as well as illusion and abstraction.

By doing so, the artist invites visitors to reconsider how narratives about American history are shaped and contested in this day and age.

The Thunderous Cannonade
Mark Bradford - The Thunderous Cannonade

Mark Bradford Art Exhibition at Hirshhorn National Museum of Modern Art

Posed with his trademark fearlessness, Mark Bradford’s upcoming exhibition will be his first solo show in Washington, DC, as well as his first major American solo show following his presentation as the US representative for the 57th Venice Biennale. All in all, it will be a show you will not want to miss.

Pickett’s Charge will be available to the public between the 8th of November 2017 and 12th of November 2018 at Hirshhorn National Museum of Modern Art in Washington, DC.

Featured images: Mark Bradford, seen in his Los Angeles studio with a detail of Pickett's Charge, 2017, Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Photo Agata Gravante; Dead Horse; Man with the Flag; The Copse of Trees; The High-Water Mark; Two Men; Witness Tree. All images by Joshua White, courtesy of Hirshhorn National Museum of Modern Art.

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