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Mark Bradford

Bread and Circuses

Not on view



Found paper, metal foil, acrylic, and string on canvas

Overall: 134 1/4 × 253 1/2in. (341 × 643.9 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Patrick and Mary Scanlan

Rights and reproductions
© Mark Bradford


Mark Bradford’s multilayered works reveal his interest in the urban transformations and economics of South Los Angeles. Bradford’s technique involves building up a composition with layers of paper—often fragments of posters or ephemera salvaged from the street—that he soaks in water and combines with string, tape, and scraps of copy and magazine paper. He then sands down the collaged strata, exposing the under layers and excavating webs of embedded string, before building it up again with additional layers of collage. Repeating this process several times yields a ridged, mosaic-like surface, hinting at narrative while remaining largely abstract. The combination of dense networks of gridded passages and wavy lines with more open areas demarcated by layers of silver paper lends Bread and Circuses a cartographic character. The title invites a political reading, as it appropriates a Latin phrase that literally means “bread and circuses” and more broadly implies a form of appeasement, whereby a population is distracted from its poverty, disenfranchisement, or lack of mobility by superficial means of entertainment.