Horrible Shark

Mark Bradford, 1961

Horrible Shark, 2011

Born in 1961 in Los Angeles, Mark Bradford studied at the California Institute of the Arts, earning his BFA in 1995 and his MFA in 1997. Before becoming an artist, Bradford worked with his mother, who was a hairdresser. Later, he incorporated the tools of this trade into his artworks, in combination with found materials culled from the streets.

In his early work, the artist looked at issues in his community and earned acclaim for his paintings made using hair salon materials such as permanent-wave end papers or hairspray cans. A wider variety of everyday materials, ranging from street posters to items collected from construction sites and hardware stores, soon also become part of his paintings, thus keeping a record of our time and reflecting its transformations. Bradford usually tackles subjects such as gender identity, discrimination based on social class, migration, and racism in American life. His preferred material is printed paper that conveys information, including newspapers, magazines, maps, posters, and flyers, which he regards as reflecting the topics he deals with. Rather than painting directly on canvas, Bradford makes work on paper that are representations of the street. He adds water to the paper to soften it, obtaining a mixture that he can layer onto canvas. Using parts of the city itself, the artist constructs a new, abstract, veiled, and layered composition that is, again, about the city and society. The artist likens his method to civilizations that are looted and destroyed in war, then rebuilt.

“Horrible Shark” is an abstracted bird’s-eye view of an urban landscape composed of materials that originally served different purposes, but all have paper in common. The artist here transforms the city, which is subject to intense urban sprawl, into an abstract map of streets and buildings, its topography highlighted via colors.




Mixed media on canvas

Credit Line

Oya – Bülent Eczacıbaşı Collection
Istanbul Museum of Modern Art / Long term loan