For these artists, city streets act as fluid, living sources of inspiration.
Street Level presents recent work by three promising artists whose works draw directly from street culture: Mark Bradford (Los Angeles), William Cordova (Lima, Miami, New York) and Robin Rhode (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Berlin). Using metropolitan grids, billboards, boom boxes, and graffiti as open-ended metaphors, their works both celebrate and critique how cultural territory is defined and transformed in urban environments.
Bradford is best known for large-scale collages of old posters gathered from the streets of South Central Los Angeles that he tears, bleaches, sands and reconfigures as abstractions of the city landscape. Cordova’s mixed-media drawings and installations of discarded books, stereo speakers, car tires, and record albums use such images and forms to allude both to his Peruvian heritage and modern urban subcultures. Inspired by graffiti, film, sports and hip-hop, Robin Rhode creates performances that involve the buildup and erasure of drawings in public spaces. He performs with his drawings as if they were three-dimensional props and documents them with digital photography and stop-time animation. While the materials, vernacular, and sites of their practices are distinct, they share a poetic power to both ground and elevate our sense of what shapes street life today.
Street Level was originally organized by Trevor Schoonmaker for the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The exhibition presented in Boston features 19 works from 2001 and 2008, including large-scale canvases, intimate works on paper, photography, video, and a new sculptural installation by Cordova commissioned by the ICA.