Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford



of an Exhibit

by Hayley Holt

Published on June 03, 2017

  • Museum: Albright-Knox Art Gallery

  • Visit Date: June, 2017

  • Description:

    This exhibition, split between the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum, provides a dialogue between the work of Clyfford Still and that of contemporary artist, Mark Bradford. The order in which you choose to view the exhibition could greatly affect your experience of the whole collaboration. I viewed the portion at the Clyfford Still Museum first. Here, Bradford was invited to curate a group of works by Clyfford Still. Beyond the title wall, I left craving more of the thinking behind the choices that were made.

    Bradford chose to arrange the grouping of Clyfford Still works chronologically. I’m sure there was a method to organizing the works in this way; however, I would have liked to have more text explaining Bradford’s choices. Did he choose from all of the works in the collection? Did he have a limited selection? If so, why did he choose the paintings that he did? In line with the rest of the Clyfford Still Museum interpretation, this exhibit was minimal in text. There was no indication in one of the rooms that it was part of the exhibit organized by Mark Bradford. While the title text explained the collaboration between the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum, it did little to explain the relationship of Bradford to these works of art. I think it would have been more interesting and thought-provoking to group works together in conversation with one another, and possibly a quote on the wall from Bradford, rather than simply in chronological order. I looked forward to heading to the Denver Art Museum to hopefully understand more of Bradford’s thinking behind this collaboration.

    As I entered the gallery at the Denver Art Museum, the work of art in front of me showed a relationship to the works I had just seen at the Clyfford Still Museum. It was large in scale with abstract dark shapes, referring to the title of the exhibition. It was clear that these works were made by Bradford in response to Clyfford Still. Around the corner from Realness, a smaller work by Clyfford Still and a quote really served to highlight the conversation between the two artists over time.

    Moving through the galleries of Bradford’s work, sprinkled with work by Clyfford Still, encouraged me to look closely at Bradford’s canvas. I noticed the distinct colors and variations in color as I did at the Clyfford Still Museum. I was being drawn in and beginning to understand the influence Still had on Bradford. Then, a gallery of brightly colored works and different textures confronted me. These works by Bradford showed his previous work, and were in no relation to Clyfford Still. While interesting, and actually my favorite of Bradford’s work, there was a disconnect for me in the big idea of the exhibit.

    So, I left with a new appreciation of Bradford, and a lot of questions for him. I wonder if Still has always been an inspiration to his work. I wonder how Still would feel about this exhibition, knowing that he did not like to have his work hung next to other artists (therefore the works in this exhibit from Still could only be from private collections.) I think the video of Bradford at the end of the Denver Art Museum could have answered some of my questions. I won’t know until I return, since the power suddenly went out while I was in the gallery. We had to evacuate, so I will certainly be returning to learn more and hear from Bradford’s perspective.

Latest Comments (2)

so many questions

by Kathleen Mclean - June 05, 2017

Thanks, Haley, for your review. You articulated so many questions, and they seem to be central to the experience of the exhibitions. From your description, there was little contextual information to provide a scaffolding for your experience in both exhibitions. I wonder if this was an oversight on the part of the organizers, or if it was intentional. I loved the fact that you visited two related exhibitions, but it is disappointing that there seemed to be no effort made to connect them conceptually. And wow—I’ve never read a review with such an abrupt ending—you were evacuated! If you do visit again, it would be great for you to add your additional insights here.


by Kathleen Mclean - June 06, 2017

When I said " it is disappointing that there seemed to be no effort made to connect them conceptually" I meant that it seems the organizers didn’t connect them conceptually—I was not referring to your review. Sorry I was unclear. K

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