Mark Bradford Los Moscos 2004

Mark Bradford
Los Moscos 2004
Installation view at Tate Liverpool 2006
Photo © Tate 2006

Bradford’s collages are often compared to Modernist abstract painting. Yet his is an abstraction that comes more from the urban sprawl of his native Los Angeles than it does art history: ‘there is an abstraction that happens in the city…a dislocation of reality when you have the Mexican taqueria next to the black wig shop across the street from the Korean nail shop.’ Los Moscos examines the structures of a city, its histories, cultures and economic systems – the title translates as ‘the flies’, a derogatory term applied to migrant labourers in the San Francisco Bay area. Composed from the signage of South Central LA, an area colonised by the entertainment industry, the work consists of hundreds of fragments of torn printed paper – posters, flyers, packaging – found by the artist in the streets surrounding his studio. Words and phrases appear and disappear throughout the picture surface, capturing the area’s cultural and historical multiplicity.

The generic form of the city – the entire collage resembles an aerial view or map – contrasts with the intricacy of the work’s composite parts. Bradford has recorded the iconography of a city in the micro and the macro. The work may be highly specific in origin, yet the histories and tensions it conveys have universal resonance.