Mark Bradford made his early works out of the strips of paper he’d collect from the floor of his mother’s hair salon in Los Angeles.
Those “End Papers” launched his career, and he’s since mounted shows from New York to Shanghai and currently, Fort Worth.
Bradford’s exhibition at the Modern Art Museum was interrupted by the pandemic, but the Modern has found a way to take the conversation to the streets.
If you’ve driven down Jacksboro Highway or the Lancaster corridor in Fort Worth recently, you might have seen a photo of a dashing man dressed head to toe in bright yellow.
Mr. LaMarr was an influential hairdresser to the upper crust of St. Louis.
Tiffany Wolf Smith — an assistant curator of education at the Modern Art Museum — helped get the photos up on billboards as part of a program called “Modern Billings.”
“Most of these billboards are in lower-income areas, and the artists get all the credit too,” Wolf Smith says. “We don’t put our logo anywhere, so it’s just artwork that is existing in these communities.”
The Modern worked with artist Mark Bradford, whose work is currently hanging in the museum.
Bradford didn’t take the photos. He selected them from the personal archive of a friend, but the images do speak to his own story.
“I like to make work with my life but not about my life,” he says.
Bradford’s early paintings look like snakeskin or complex maps, but they’re actually made from the strips of paper used to wrap curls into perms.
He discovered the material working in his mother’s hair salon. The end papers also offer a subtle hint at Bradford’s path to becoming an artist.
“I was certainly a formed person before I went to art school,” Bradford says. “I was 30 years old. I was one of those people that fell through the cracks by the time I was in fifth grade. I was creative, but there was absolutely no architecture or structure around that creative black child.”