The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents The Mark Bradford Project, a yearlong audience participation residency connecting the artist with the Chicago community. This project leads up to the Mark Bradford exhibition, the first survey of the artist’s work to date, on view at the MCA Chicago, May 28–September 18, 2011.
The youth have moved from production to presentation, conversing with Mark to explore installation ideas.
“My project is basically pictures of people’s soles.”
Lindblom senior Michael Moore has spent the year collecting shoes from his classmates, tearing them apart, and photographing the soles. Building on Michael’s personal interest in shoes, his project examines what the soles say about their owners, “I wanted to express a sort-of individuality, but at the same time we’re also similar, through the way we dress, the areas we come from, and from looking at the soles you can see all these things.
“Whether it’s an expensive pair of vintage Adidas, versus someone who has a pair of Air Force 1, you can tell economic status, maybe the neighborhood they come from. From the way the sole looks, so if its perforated, and it has rocks stuck in it, and gum and other things, you see the terrain they traveled to get to wherever they have to go, versus someone who maybe gets dropped off to school everyday, who has a perfectly clean pair of shoes.”
Michael’s project will be presented as a series of large-scale c-prints of the dissected soles of students’ shoes.
Text by Sarah Wambold, Multimedia Manager, MCA; Images (top to bottom): Michael Moore working on his project, “Sole.” Photos © MCA ChicagoTags: Lindblom Michael Moore Sole c-print journey neighborhood photography project shoes students Sarah Wambold highlight
More than an art exhibition, The Mark Bradford Project is an extension into the places where our community gathers.
I fall in love with artists and their stories, and then I collect their work. As a child, my first love was the unnamed creator of a black velvet poster that I saw at the Chicago Black Expo in the 1970s. I begged my mother to buy it for me. Since then, my taste in art has evolved from velvet works, but I still believe that art can be experienced anywhere.
It took a while before I felt comfortable interacting with art at major institutions like the MCA. I preferred admiring art and meeting artists in more intimate or familiar places, like Little Black Pearl, South Side Community Art Center, coffee shops, frame up shops and private homes. As a young ob/gyn resident, I bought my first original work of art from a private dealer. It cost me two months salary and much angst. “Am I crazy to blow our rent money on such a frivolous purchase?” I asked my husband Marty. Twenty years later, that art still hangs in my living room.
Falling for Mark Bradford was effortless. Mark is about bringing art to the people. He understands that some people need art to come to them in comfortable and more familiar places before they will seek it out in traditional and more formal spaces. His complex works spoke to me. His story was irresistible. A beautician turned artist? I was smitten once again.
I met Mark in person at a dinner held at my favorite South Side Chicago hang out, an upcoming arts and culture venue—Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects. The venue itself is a curiosity. When I received the invitation from Theaster, a dear friend and an outstanding artist himself, I was puzzled. An event held for many of Chicago’s art elite on 69th and Dorchester? Was this a joke? Would Gold Coast and North Side art patrons venture further south than Hyde Park? To my surprise, many in attendance had roots on the South Side. In spite of my doubts, that dinner was filled with good food, great folks and provocative conversations that would rival any Gold Coast experience.
At the dinner, our conversation honed in on finding and seeing art in unexpected places. Mark continued this dialogue in his MCA talk and at other dinner tables across the city—including Desiree (Glapion) Rogers’ home—where he has been the featured guest.
Mark Bradford’s work is about reaching out to people and making unlikely connections. His post-Katrina ark, Mithra—assembled in 2008 in New Orleans on the site where the Glapion funeral home once stood—brought renewed attention to the hurricane-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward. Revenue generated by the ark, including sold photographs of it, was donated to efforts to revitalize the area and nurture the community. Much like Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects, Mark’s art practice is not just about objects and installations in the usual temporary places. These artists have a lasting positive impact on communities that are neglected by mainstream society and excluded from sustainable commerce and development. Mark understands that art is about people, their lives and their legacies.
The Mark Bradford Project resonates with people from any background. You don’t have to be a collector, an art historian or a fancy dealer to experience it. Connecting with teens at Lindblom High School, young poets at YOUmedia or with congregations at churches like Trinity United Church of Christ, Mark ignites a spark that creates a lifelong love for art. For him, beautiful things can happen anywhere.
— Anita Blanchard Nesbitt, MCA donor and friend
Image credits (top to bottom): Anita with MCA donor Lois Eisen and Mark Bradford at Theaster Gates’ dinner, photographer Mark Randazzo. Anita with her husband and MCA Trustee, Marty Nesbitt, at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.
I want my students to be high school students that make art, not students that make high school art.
Prior to Mark’s visit to my classroom on February 8, a student posed this question: “So what should we do when Mark is here?” It isn’t a question I had considered and my response reflected that: “Nothing different.” This was not my response because I felt everything was ideal in my classroom. Nor that the situation would not be altered by the presence of Mark, MCA representatives, a video camera, a radio reporter, and the principal. Rather, it was my belief that my students are capable and creative individuals who already achieve beyond my expectations. It was also my belief that the nature of this residency is for Mark to integrate into the existing situation and be another critical voice for the students; that he is here to act as a mentor and a facilitator, much in the same way that I act.
Once I was asked the question, I started to doubt my assumptions. Mark and I had spoken and exchanged emails, but we had never clearly defined classroom roles. I wondered if I had assumed too much. When Mark stepped into the classroom I knew that not only had I not assumed too much, but that Mark, and my vision for this residency and in a larger sense, the goals of secondary arts education, were more in sync than I expected. Despite the fanfare, Mark integrated seamlessly into the classroom, engaging students in critical discussions and finding new ways to address their process. He seemed at home in the high school environment and easily related to the students (not always an easy task).
Mark’s presence in the classroom and the ideas he generated brought energy to the class. Since his critique, students have renewed their focus and clarified the direction of their projects. One of the great benefits of an artist-in-residence is the legitimacy that they bring. Students’ perception of a visiting artist differs greatly from their perception of a teacher, whether real or imagined. The respect that Mark showed both my students and their work was powerful reinforcement of the discussions that had been ongoing. Mark is a voice of possibilities. He champions an idea that I learned as a student-teacher from Jorge Lucero that “I want my students to be high school students that make art, not students that make high school art.”
This residency is not merely an opportunity for my students to work with Mark Bradford, but also to take their work beyond what is generally possible in a high school environment. I have always asked them to make work worthy of who they are, not the circumstances they are in. Mark’s involvement and reaction to their work makes that expectation a reality.Lindblom Nathan Diamond classroom Jorge Lucero highlight