As a nice little close to 2010 I decided to take my dad to the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) here in Boston to celebrate his birthday Thursday evening. I’m a huge fan of the ICA (and it’s free night on Thursdays, 5-9pm!) so I generally make an effort to check out new exhibits, the most recent being “paintings” and mixed media work from Mark Bradford. No, those quotation signs are not a mockery — rather, this LA-based artist creates textured and emotionally charged collages made from mundane items that give a layered effect similar to painting. With materials such as permanent wave papers (as in the perm you get at a hair salon), billboard paper, and twine, Bradford touches on his past experiences as the son of a hairdresser in LA’s Leimert Park neighborhood while also incorporating urban themes such as racial conflict, emergency commerce, and social commentary. I left feeling very inspired and fascinated by his big, bold, and colorful pieces. I look forward to seeing his work evolve, especially as receives increased international recognition. If you are around the Boston area definitely check out the exhibit, which runs until March 13, 2011.

Black Venus (2005), Bradford’s representation of an LA neighborhood where the planning grid and the artist’s mental imagery intersect.

Corner of Desire and Piety (2008) captures the emergency commerce of post-Katrina New Orleans.

Scorched Earth (2006) references both the Iraq War and the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, OK.

If you so desire, read this New York Times article to learn more about the artist and exhibit!