Mark Bradford: the artist and ex-hairdresser forcing America to face ugly truths about itself

By Lanre Bakare

He turned the US pavilion at the Venice Biennale into a comment on slavery, Trump and police brutality. The outspoken painter talks about feeding off rejection, muscling into Monet territory – and what he'd like to do to middle-class lawns

Mark Bradford created one of the most talked about displays at the Venice Biennale earlier this year. The artist from South Central LA piled up stones and gravel outside the US pavilion, to make it look like Monticello, the plantation in Virginia owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third US president. Bradford made visitors enter via a side door, as plantation slaves would have, and filled the inside with his abstract expressionist art, inspired by everything from the rise of Trump to police violence and Black Lives Matter. The result, he says, was his “most urgent exhibition to date”.

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