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Los Moscos

For Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford, collage – with its seemingly chaotic juxtapositions, its many layers and fragments, its patterns and dislocations – is the artform that comes closest to the actual experience of city life. His collages seethe with life and colour, just as their textures and built-up layers echo the contours of a city. They are incredibly detailed, yet when we step back and look at the whole, we see a beautiful overall shape and pattern – like the aerial view of a city at night. Los Moscos highlights the contrast between the glamorous facade of the Los Angeles entertainment industry and the very different world of the city’s migrant workers. Bradford’s collages are often compared to Modernist abstract painting. Yet his is an abstraction that comes more from the urban sprawl of his native Los Angeles than from art history: ‘there is an abstraction that happens in the city... a dislocation of reality when you have the Mexican taqueria next to the black wig shop across the street from the Korean nail shop’. Los Moscos examines the structures of a city, its histories, cultures and economic systems. (The title translates as ‘the flies’, a derogatory term applied to migrant labourers in the San Francisco Bay area.) Composed from the signage of South Central LA, an area colonised by the entertainment industry, the work consists of hundreds of fragments of torn printed paper – posters, flyers, packaging – found by the artist in the streets surrounding his studio. Words and phrases appear and disappear throughout the picture surface, capturing the area’s cultural and historical multiplicity. The generic form of the city – the entire collage resembles an aerial view or map – contrasts with the intricacy of the work’s composite parts. Bradford has recorded the iconography of a city in the micro and the macro. The work may be highly specific in origin, yet the histories and identities it conveys have universal resonance. Laurence Sillars

Project Credits Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of the American Acquisitions Committee 2006

Date

16 September – 26 November 2006