Mark Bradford brings ‘dexterity of De Kooning’ and a commitment to activism to the 2017 Venice Biennale

It’s been more than 10 years since a painter has represented the United States at the Venice Biennale. That was Ed Ruscha in 2005. This week, the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University announced that another Los Angeles painter, Mark Bradford, would be given free rein at the U.S. Pavilion for 2017’s Venice Biennale.

It’s too soon for Bradford to divulge details about what he has in mind for his Venice installation, but we can be sure that it will be more than simply pretty paintings hanging on walls. There will be a message.

The artist’s international reputation rests on deeply layered canvases that take on issues of class, culture, race and gender in abstract ways. He also helped launch a social services organization and gallery space in Leimert Park called Art + Practice, devoted in part to helping foster youth.

This attention to politics and activism, along with Bradford’s formidable painting skills, are why Rose director Christopher Bedford says Bradford is the right artist right now to represent the U.S. at one of the most high-profile contemporary art events in the world.

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