Realism Through the Postmodern Era Essay

Realism Through the Postmodern Era

Contemporary arts are bodies of art works and objects that break away from the tradition of modern art. It is the movement that is personally referred, “art of the present.” Mark Bradford, one of the contemporary artists of the period, reveals his skills into the diverse spaces of South California where he puts up his installations and collages made up of materials from the streets.

Mark Bradford was a native of Los Angeles. He was born in the year 1961. He obtained his degree in Fine Arts and Masters in Fine Arts in California Institute of Arts in Valencia during 1995 and 1997, respectively. He has already received several awards such as Bucksbaum Award (2006), Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2003) and Joan Mitchell Foundation (2002). He has also been included in major exhibitions in 2006 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Public Broadcasting Service, 2007). Some of the group exhibitions that he has joined were put up at Italy, Santa Monica and New York. From 1998 to 2005, he has already managed to have his solo exhibitions in different places in the United States namely, Pittsburg, San Francisco and New York (Saatchi Gallery, 2009).

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Bradford’s works focuses on the ephemera and imagery of his surroundings. He pairs an assessment and examination of formal debates on abstraction and figuration with the sociological questions concerning the systems of culture, communication and immigration in Los Angeles. His works encompass a lot of elements such as permanent-wave endpapers, scraps of paper, foil, hair, remnants of posters from deserted lots, telephone poles and fences. He incorporates all those in his canvas and then paints them, frequently repeating and retracing the original text (Carnegie Museum of Art, 2008).

One of his masterpieces is entitled Kryptonite, a mixed media, collage on paper that measures 249 x 301cm and is finished in 2006, wherein Bradford demonstrates the organic quality in a grid-like composition. “The painting’s convoluted architecture and overlapping details radiate as megalopolisprawl, a seething microcosm of activity” (Saatchi Gallery, 2009). The painting itself illustrates gridline patterns that looks like the arrangement of settlement in some areas of the world. It is composed of diverse lines namely horizontal, vertical and curvature. It also reveals tiny dots, rectangles and squares in varying sizes. By just looking at the painting and contemplating on its title in relation to what is inside the canvas, a spectator will somehow read it as an element that showcases the harmful effects of  immigration in Los Angeles, since it is one of the common themes that Bradford portrays in his masterpieces. The lines signify the directions of the Diaspora and the origins of the people who immigrate. The different colors of shapes imply the diverse population and ethnicity in the place.

Figure 1. Kryptonite

Bradford is often compared to Piet Mondrian, an artist who depicts in his works total abstractionism. Mondrian was known for his geometric patterns in paintings; on the other hand, Bradford through his Kryptonite, somehow delineates the same elements. He “gives modernism’s vision of an ordered utopia a lethal reality check as hard-edged borders and harmonious planes are exchanged for independent non-defined forms engaging in an unruly turf-war” (Saatchi Gallery, 2009).

Bradford’s Kryptonite is considered contemporary because of several reasons that need to be taken into consideration. First, the period when the work is created. Since it is crafted in the 21st century, therefore, it lies under the realm of contemporary due to the critics and historians definition of the term, “arts produced since 1960s.” Second, the materials used. Bradford has not rejected the utilization of traditional canvas and oil because he incorporates a number of scavenged materials in his work. Third, the style of the artist. Bradford does not paint the “kryptonite” in accordance to the image that is based on the legends and myths of Superman. However, he uses the word to depict something else and to portray a sociological issue in Los Angeles. Fourth, his approach and manner. His masterpiece exemplifies a non-figurative painting, which means no human figures are visible. It is a pure abstraction due to the elements inside it–geometry and lines.

Bradford, being one of the contemporary artists of today’s generation, has already demonstrated a remarkable style and technique in the world of art. By employing found materials in his surrounding, he proves that trashes are usable resources in sharing his ideas and beliefs and in expressing his thoughts and point of views.


Carnegie Museum of Art. (2008). Mark Bradford. Life on Mars. Retrieved March 13, 2009 from

Public Broadcasting Service. (2007). Biography: Mark Bradford. Art 21. Retrieved March 13, 2009 from

Saatchi Gallery. (2009). Mark Bradford’s Biography and Exhibitions. Retrieved March 13, 2009 from

List of Figure

Kryptonite. (2009). Selected Works by Mark Bradford.. Retrieved March 13, 2009 from



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