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Installation view of Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford

Thursday, May 26, 2016
Sunday, October 2, 2016

1905 Building

Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford features the work of celebrated American artists Mark Bradford (born 1961) and Clyfford Still (1904–1980). For the exhibition, Bradford has helped select more than 20 paintings from the Albright-Knox's important collection of works by Still. In adjacent galleries, Bradford presents a group of his own paintings—created specifically for this exhibition—that manifest an ongoing conversation with both Still’s abstractions and the broader legacy of Abstract Expressionism.

1957-D-No. 1

Clyfford Still (American, 1904-1980). 1957-D-No. 1, 1957. Oil on canvas, 113 x 159 inches (287 x 403.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1959 (K1959:26). © City and County of Denver / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Butch Queen

Mark Bradford (American, born 1961). Butch Queen, 2016. Mixed media on canvas, 104 1/4 × 144 1/2 inches (259.7 × 367 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, by exchange, and Gift of Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida, 2016 (2016:13). © 2016 Mark Bradford.

Bradford has long been fascinated by Still’s extensive use of black as a signature component of his abstract imagery and the many statements he made about the color. Still famously asserted that his own dramatic canvases, which he once called “black suns,” could even be hung in darkness because “they will carry their own fire.” “Black,” he proclaimed, “was never a color of death or terror for me. I think of it as warm—and generative. But color is what you choose to make it.” Such affirmative references to blackness were unparalleled in a 1950s America riven by the early rumblings of the Civil Rights movement and the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. As an African American abstract painter, Bradford chooses to read Still’s relationship with black as an open-minded invitation to dialogue.

Bradford's new paintings continue his own exploration of abstraction’s power to address social and political concerns. Bradford has recently stated, “I think there are other ways of looking through abstraction. To use the whole social fabric of our society as a point of departure for abstraction reanimates it, dusts it off. I just find that chilling and amazing.” In this, Bradford finds Still a powerful inspiration. “Shade” suggests the power of intergenerational dialogue to cast a canonical moment in American art history in a different light. Bradford is reading Abstract Expressionism against the grain in order to enrich his practice and, profoundly, to color our own view of abstraction.

Photograph of artist Clyfford Still (American, 1904–1980)

Clyfford Still (American, 1904–1980). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery Archives.

Photograph of artist Mark Bradford (American, born 1961)

Mark Bradford (American, born 1961). Photograph courtesy the artist.

In 1959, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (then the Albright Art Gallery) presented the first large-scale survey exhibition of Clyfford Still’s career; it included seventy-two paintings dating from 1936 to 1957. In 1964, Still gave the museum 31 paintings. This donation joined two works already in the museum’s collection, bringing the number of his works in Buffalo to 33. Today, the Albright-Knox is the largest repository of the artist’s work outside the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.

Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford will travel to the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum and will be on view in both venues from April 9 to July 16, 2017.

The exhibition is organized by Senior Curator Cathleen Chaffee.

Museum admission is required to view this special exhibition during M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY.

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition has been made possible through the generosity of First Niagara Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Banta, Jay Goldman, Hauser & Wirth Inc., Deborah Ronnen, and Amy and Harris Schwalb.

The First Niagara Foundation is proud to serve as the official Education Sponsor of this exhibition. Their sponsorship will underwrite free admission to the exhibition for all K–12 students in Erie County during the months of July and August, among other programming. 

Education programming for this exhibition is presented in partnership with the City of Buffalo.

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