Art Review, Mark Bradford, The Devil is Beating His Wife

7 Jan

Well, we move towards the gigantically abstract for this week’s art.  I encourage you to look up the painting in google so you can have a close look at it while reading this.  Mark Bradford is an interesting artist–he uses, among other things, end papers that have chemical burns on them from perms in a beauty shop.  Everything is gridded in small pieces, quite orderly in their own way, but the color and texture bring meaning to that order.

The odd thing is that the image does not make me think of anybody beating anybody (directly), I see no human form in it, and it’s pretty hard to have an abstract where some version of a face doesn’t show up somewhere.   His work reminds me more of maps of farm water tables, or pictures from airplanes that are many smaller pictures put together.     So while I don’t think it looks like a scene there is definitely an impression the painting gives.

There is definitely a hellish vibe.  For instance, a lot of the black sections look like snakeskin, a black burnt snakeskin scroll with a big flash of yellow to the upper left.  Interestingly enough, The Devil is beating his Wife is a Southern saying that has to do with what’s going on when the sun’s out and it’s raining.  That instinctively makes sense, with the yellow mixed with the grey and cloudlike shapes all existing at the same time.  It’s interesting how the whole work seems to be reflective and shiny.  And how on such a day, if you can see a broad expanse, you can see sunny places and rainy places, intermingling together.

Incidentally, the devil is beating his wife because it is such a beautiful day, so the rain is her tears.  I find that story so peculiar that I find it difficult to comment on it.  Alternately dark and colorful, I guess this work is as good as anything else to show this saying off.

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