US Pavilion: Social Change

The US Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, 57th International Art Exhibition, will feature Tomorrow is Another Day, a new presentation by artist Mark Bradford (b.1961). The 2017 display signals the debut of a six-year collaboration between the artist and the Venice social cooperative, Rio Terà dei Pensieri. Co-curated by Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director and commissioner for the project and Katy Siegel, BMA Senior Programming and Research Curator, the pavilion has been organised by the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), in cooperation with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. Opening on 13 May, the show comprises a series of new works by Bradford alongside existing pieces in a variety of media.

A leading light in contemporary art, the LA-based practitioner is known for his abstract paintings and collage-based works that recapture mid-century American art’s capacity to conjure the sublime and evoke deep feeling, while incorporating layers of social and personal commentary. As co-founder of LA-based nonprofit organisation Art + Practice, Bradford is also engaged with social issues in his local area. The organisation encourages education and culture by supporting the needs of foster youth predominantly living in South LA, and providing access to free, museum-curated art exhibitions and lectures to the community of Leimert Park.

The US Pavilion exhibition Tomorrow is Another Day will reflect Bradford’s interest in renewing traditions of abstract and materialist painting, as well as his longtime social and intellectual interests, most notably in marginalised populations. A multilayered narrative will develop throughout the pavilion’s five galleries to reflect the artist’s belief in the capacity of art to expose contradictory histories and inspire action in the present day. The artist will work closely with the nonprofit cooperative Rio Terà dei Pensieri for the following six years.

Similarly to Bradford’s Art + Practice, Rio Terà dei Pensieri uses art to engage with local social issues. The organisation provides employment opportunities to men and women incarcerated in Venice to create artisanal goods and other products and supports their re-integration into society. Bradford’s lengthy collaboration, Process Collettivo, will launch a sustainable programme that brings awareness to both the penal system and the success of the social cooperative model. A storefront, located in the Frari district of Venice, is the initial manifestation of the collaboration. Opened in April, it will continue to sell artisanal goods; provide opportunities for employment to formerly incarcerated individuals; and function as a resource centre for former inmates to receive support services over the next six years. All proceeds from merchandise sales will support Rio Terà dei Pensieri in expanding and sustaining the cooperative for years to come.

Mark Bradford, US Pavilion, Tomorrow is Another Day, 13 May – 26 November, Venice Biennale, Giardini, Venice.

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1. Mark Bradford, Scorched Earth, 2006. Courtesy of the artist and The Broad.