This is an excerpt from an article in The Guardian. To read the full article, click here.
“What is the purpose of an image?” the artist Mark Bradford asks, questioning the role of photographs and surveillance footage in the pursuit of justice. In our divisive modern landscape, proliferating documentation of violent altercations via iPhone or police body cameras has provided little in the way of absolute truths. Bradford, an internationally acclaimed Los Angeles-based artist whose abstract, sometimes monumental paintings have examined structures of class, race and gender since the 90s, would argue that images of assault and police brutality function as Rorschach tests – they raise questions rather than answers on the appropriate use of force, who is wrong, and who is righteous. “There’s this idea that a camera will protect its citizens because we will look at the imagery and due justice will follow,” he says, “but there are so many ways to interpret truth. That hasn’t been the case.”
The question of an image’s purpose lay the foundation of Bradford’s latest work, Life Size, stark in its simplicity but monumental in its scale. He’s taken a 30ft-tall billboard – a fixture in the LA landscape known for ingraining images into memory in the split seconds you might drive past – and placed a square black body camera accented with glowing red at its center.
In broad support of criminal justice reform beyond issues of police brutality, Bradford is also selling a third version of Life Size: a limited-edition sculptural print whose proceeds go to the Art for Justice fund, a not-for-profit founded in 2017 by the storied philanthropist and arts patron Agnes Gund. Through the sale of a 1962 Roy Lichtenstein painting that once graced her Upper East Side apartment, she put $100m towards a lofty goal: to reduce the rate of incarceration in targeted states by 20% over the course of five years.
“I was really impressed with what Aggie did, because you don’t come from the ‘art world’ and decide to have a foot in the criminal justice system,” says Bradford. Noting the epidemic of mass incarceration in this United States, particularly its disproportionate effects on communities of color, Gund partnered with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to fund organizations battling injustice at a structural level, addressing issues of excessive sentencing, bail and youth diversion programs.
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