If you have been in LACMA's Resnick Pavilion over the last week, you might have noticed a new large-scale painting by artist Mark Bradford. 150 Portrait Tone is based on an idea for a work that Bradford conceived after the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in July 2016. Castile, a nutrition services supervisor at an elementary school, was shot after being pulled over in his car—an incident that was livestreamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to him.
The text repeats excerpts of Reynolds’s dialogue from the video. Bradford notes that he was moved by the multiple subjects Reynolds simultaneously addressed and the different spaces they occupied: her boyfriend, Castile, next to her (“stay with me”); the officer outside the car (“please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this”); God (“Lord, please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone”); as well as the unknown receiver on the other side of her livestream (“please don’t tell me he just went like that”).
Like many of Bradford’s works, the mural-size composition contains elements of both abstraction and realism. In places, layers of manipulated paint render the text almost illegible. The dark form in the background, however, evokes all-too-real associations with the horrific shooting, such as Castile’s twisted arm and the dark-red bloodstain spread across his white shirt, both visible in the livestream feed.
The title, 150 Portrait Tone, refers to the name and color code of the pink acrylic used throughout the painting (most conspicuous in a large patch at the work’s bottom edge). Like the now-obsolete “flesh” crayon in the Crayola 64 box (the color was renamed “peach” in 1962), the color “portrait tone” carries inherent assumptions about who, exactly, is being depicted. In the context of Bradford’s painting, the title presents a sobering commentary on power and representation.
Mark Bradford is an honoree of our 2017 Art+Film Gala, taking place on Saturday, November 4, and this ongoing installation was organized in honor of the event. Check back next week for a look at how this work and its installation came together.