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clyfford still | museum
Three large abstract oil paintings hang on the walls of the Clyfford Still Museum
Installation view of Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford at the Clyfford Still Museum.
Photo by Justin Wambold

Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford

Apr 9 – Jul 16, 2017


Contemporary works and abstract expressionist masterpieces converge in Shade, a collaborative presentation by the Denver Art Museum (DAM) and Clyfford Still Museum (CSM). In this two-venue exhibition, paintings by renowned contemporary American artist Mark Bradford—who will represent the United States at the 2017 Venice Biennale—will be on view at the DAM, while a presentation of Still’s work selected in collaboration with Bradford will be on view at CSM. Shade is complemented by a host of special events and programs.

Mark Bradford, Realness, 2016. Mixed media on canvas; 108.25 x 168.5 in. Denver Art Museum Collection: Purchased with funds from anonymous donors; funds from Vicki and Kent Logan by exchange; Baryn, Daniel and Jonathan Futa; Craig Ponzio; Ralph L. and Florence R. Burgess Trust; DAM Contemporaries; Volunteer Endowment Fund; Suzanne Farver and Clint Van Zee; Andrea and William Hankinson; Amy Harmon; Arlene and Barry Hirschfeld; Lu and Chris Law; Sharon and J. Landis Martin; Tina Patterson and Bill Cottingham; Amanda J. Precourt; Judy and Ken Robins; Annalee and Wagner Schorr; Ellen and Morris Susman; Tina Walls; and Margaret and Glen Wood. © Mark Bradford.

In Shade, Bradford underscores the legacy of abstract expressionism and explores abstraction’s power to address social and political concerns. The exhibition examines both his and Still’s unique relationship to black in their paintings, whether it’s used to force viewers out of their comfort zones, evoke emotions, or confront conventional notions of race. As an African American painter, Bradford has long been fascinated by Still’s extensive use of black as a signature component of his work. Still made many statements about the color, referring to his canvases as “black suns” and “black monsters.” “Black,” Still proclaimed, “was never a color of death or terror for me. I think of it as warm—and generative. But color is what you choose to make it.” Such affirmative references to blackness were unparalleled in a 1950s America divided by the early rumblings of the Civil Rights movement and the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.

“[Bradford’s] work is filled with a rough, hard-fought elegance. He’s improvising, using what’s around him, trying to make something good out of it, and that’s what makes him a great artist.” –Artnet News

Bradford reads Still’s relationship with black as an open-ended invitation for dialogue. “For me as an artist, I am much more interested in questions than answers. Shade is simply putting questions into the public domain,” Bradford says. Bradford recently stated, “I think there are other ways of looking through abstraction. To use the whole social fabric of our society as a point of departure for abstraction reanimates it, dusts it off.”

Jointly produced by CSM and the DAM, an original video featuring interviews with Bradford; Rebecca R. Hart, curator of modern and contemporary art at the DAM; and CSM director Dean Sobel is also included in the exhibition.

Exhibition Tours

Tour your heart out with back-to-back public tours from April 9 to July 16. A 45-minute tour of Shade will be offered at the Denver Art Museum on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 2 p.m. On Wednesdays and Sundays, continue your tour at CSM at 3 p.m. Members of either museum enjoy both tours at no charge. The general public need purchase just one ticket at either venue; no reservations required.

Shade: Clyfford Still/Mark Bradford is organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Its presentation in Denver is a collaboration between the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Clyfford Still Museum, and the Denver Art Museum. This exhibition has been made possible through the generosity of First Niagara Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Banta, Jay Goldman, Hauser & Wirth, Deborah Ronnen, and Amy and Harris Schwalb. The presentation at the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum is generously funded by Vicki and Kent Logan, Christie’s, and US Bank. Additional funding is provided by the donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign, and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine, CBS4, Comcast Spotlight, and The Denver Post.