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Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford

Thursday, May 26–Sunday, October 2, 2016

Clyfford Still (American, 1904–1980). PH-48 (1957-D-No. 1), 1957. Oil on canvas, 113 x 159 inches (287 x 403.9 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery; Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1959. © 2016 City and County of Denver / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

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 twenty 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.

Mark Bradford (American, born 1961). Butch Queen, 2016. Mixed media on canvas, 102 1/4 × 144 1/2 inches (259.7 × 367 cm). Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photograph by Joshua White/, courtesy Hauser & Wirth.

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

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.

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

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.

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 thirty-one paintings. This donation joined two works already in the museum’s collection, bringing the number of his works in Buffalo to thirty-three. 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.

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 K12 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.


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


Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford
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Artist Talk: Mark Bradford at PS 192 Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts
Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 6 pm
Followed by a community reception

Members’ Opening
Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 5–7 pm

Emerging Voices in Contemporary Art: 
Mark Bradford in Conversation with Cathleen Chaffee 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 7:15 pm

Public Exhibition Opening
Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 7–9 pm

Gallery Talks
Friday, June 3, 2016, 6 and 7 pm

Gallery Talks
Friday, August 5, 2016, 5:30 and 7:30 pm 

Verbal Description Sensory Tour
Saturday, August 6, 2016, 10 am–12 pm

Verbal Description Sensory Tour
Saturday, September 3, 2016, 10 am–12 pm

Talk: Who Is Clyfford Still and Why Does He Matter?
Thursday, September 8, 2016, 6 pm

Verbal Description Sensory Tour
Thursday, September 15, 2016, 2–4 pm


Mark Bradford Will Represent U.S. at Venice Biennale (The New York Times)

The Artist Project: Mark Bradford (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Mark Bradford discusses his interest in Clyfford Still in this video for The Met’s Artist Project.

Free Admission for K–12 Erie County Students

In association with the exhibition Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford and with the support of the First Niagara Foundation and our community partners, all K–12 Erie County students receive free admission to the Albright-Knox with one guardian in July and August 2016. Erie County art teachers also receive free admission during this time. Vouchers for free admission will be available at the Albright-Knox, select First Niagara Bank locations, all Buffalo and Erie County Public Library branches, through Mayor Byron Brown’s Reading Rules! Kids Summer Reading Challenge, and at events and programs throughout the city. Please call 716.270.8292 for more information.