The United States of America has tapped Mark Bradford to represent it at the 2017 Venice Biennale, which runs next year from May 13 through November 26. He will create a site-specific installation for the U.S. Pavilion in the Giardini in Venice, according to a news release, but details about his plan are not yet public.
The really quite glorious news comes from the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, in Waltham, Massachusetts, which is heading up the project, and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which is charged with overseeing proposals for the pavilion. Christopher Bedford, the director of the Rose, and Katy Siegel, its curator-at-large, will oversee the project.
Bradford, 55 this year, has earned international renown for sprawling paintings that he makes by layering posters, papers, and other materials on canvas—collages that he cuts, sands, and tears into bewitching abstract compositions that recall artists like Jacques Villeglé and Jack Whitten. He has also ventured into performance and has made sculptures at such a scale that they become installations, as in the towering ark, titled Mithra (2008), which he produced for the inaugural edition of the Prospect exhibition in New Orleans in 2008.
Over the past few years, Bradford has been on a rapid ascent, with high-profile shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012) and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2015), where he lives and works. In 2014, in conjunction with the Hammer, he helped found Art+Practice, an alternative space and social-services center in L.A.’s Leimert Park area. The year before that, he signed with the powerful Hauser & Wirth gallery, which has locations in London, New York, Los Angeles, Zürich, and Somerset, England. In 2009 he was selected as a fellow by the MacArthur Foundation.
As Randy Kennedy points out in the New York Times, the Rose’s selection is a major win for the museum, which just a few years ago was facing closure when Brandeis trustees announced a plan to deaccession works from its collection to raise money for the university’s endowment. That plan, thankfully, was dropped after protests.
The pick also represents a repeat victory for Boston-area museums. The United States’s 2015 presentation in Venice was organized by the MIT List Visual Arts Center, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which selected Joan Jonas.
Other recent picks for the United States have included Sarah Sze (2013), Allora & Calzadilla (2011), Bruce Nauman (2009), Felix Gonzalez-Torres (2007), Ed Ruscha (2005), and Fred Wilson (2003).
Impressively, the 2017 project already has a website that includes a photograph of Bradford surveying Venice from the back of the water taxi, camera in hand. Click here and scroll down to have a look.