Mithra, an enormous public artwork Mark Bradford made in 2008 for Prospect.1, an international contemporary art exhibition in New Orleans, was an ark-like structure situated in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, the site of much of the worst destruction from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. For Mark Bradford, and with the support of the Wexner Center Residency Award program, Bradford reconstructed and reconfigured sections of Mithra for the very different site and viewing conditions of our galleries. The new sculpture, titled Detail, and the film Across Canal, also on view in the exhibition and finished with support from the residency, both reflect on Mithra's conception, construction, and relationship to its environs, while also extending the life of that project beyond the 100-day run of Prospect.1.
Read on for some of Mark Bradford's thoughts about Mithra:
When I was invited to do something in New Orleans, I knew that I wanted something that had some weight to it. I wanted to make something social because the land itself was so social and politically charged. I was really sort of looking forward and making a proposition that humanity would spring from the earth and that life continues.
I wanted to use the materials that I always use. But I needed a structural component, so I used three shipping containers stacked on top of each other and with everything ripped out. I got them all here in LA. I asked them to put it in the Lower Ninth Ward, because this is going to be a destination.
I had my doubts that it could please all people. I didn't splinter off from Prospect.1, but I ran my own crew in the Lower Ninth. I had my own opening at the site because they had one uptown and I just thought that's not going to work. I don't know if this was a success or not, but I took many steps to make sure that the people in the community in which I was working felt respect.