L.A. artist Mark Bradford’s first retrospective to appear in . . . Ohio

Mark Bradford is on a roll. Last year he received a MacArthur “genius” award for his “richly textured,” collage-style paintings, which draw from posters, billboards and other urban visuals. Earlier this month he wrapped up a show of works on paper at the Aspen Art Museum. And May 8 marks the opening of his first retrospective at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.

With more than 50 works from the last decade, the show is billed as Bradford’s “first major museum survey.” The centerpiece is a new, audio-visual room-sized installation called “Pinocchio Is on Fire,” inspired, Bradford says, by “the changing narrative of South-Central Los Angeles.” Describing it, the artist mentions everything from the changing fashions on Crenshaw Boulevard to learning about HIV in the ‘80s. (“I thought it was a new cable company,” he says.)

But the exhibition so deeply rooted in the history of Los Angeles won’t, it turns out, be coming to Los Angeles. Instead it will travel to the ICA in Boston, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Dallas Museum of Art and in 2012, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

How did L.A. miss out? Wexner curator Christopher Bedford confirmed that curator Gary Garrels at SFMOMA stepped in when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art declined to take the show.


Michael Govan, LACMA’s director, says the museum’s decision not to take the show was “nothing unusual -- it didn’t work for timing and schedule reasons.” “We love Mark, we’re lending work to the show, and we have a curator writing for their catalog,” Govan continues. “We’ve worked with him before, and we have plans to continue to work with him.”

Still, the lack of an L.A. venue for an L.A. artist’s first retrospective seems odd, especially considering his popularity with museums and collectors here. In fact, the nonprofit foundations of two couples here, Eli and Edythe Broad and Susan and Leonard Nimoy, provided some funding for the Wexner show.

But Bradford says he is not disappointed because the show “is coming to California, and I’m really excited about that. Besides, I’m 100% sure I will do future things in Los Angeles -- it’s my city.”

-- Jori Finkel