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On Wednesday, October 20th, the California African-American Museum (CAAM) hosted an artist conversation with Mark to kick off its new museum branding and direction... In Conversation: Mark Bradford and Naima Keith at California African American Museum

On Wednesday, October 20th, the California African-American Museum (CAAM) hosted an artist conversation with Mark to kick off its new museum branding and direction to go along with the opening of its newest exhibitions. Hosted by its new director Naima Keith, I was already impressed with the direction the museum was headed in, and having an artist of Mark’s stature assist in the charge did hurt either. I was really excited to hear Mark Bradford speak at CAAM. I have always had an interest in his work and have heard stories about the “tall guy in Leimert Park” taking the art scene by storm. You hear the stories, read the reviews and articles but nothing compares to hearing the words straight from the source.

As I went to quickly grab my seat in the front, I was excited to find that Mark was already there in place and ready for action. I guess I’m used to artists making these grand Los Angeles entrances to their shows and was surprised to just find Mark relaxed and ready to go almost as if he was my grad school professor ready to give the first midterm of the year. As I made way to the seat and got my equipment ready to document the night, I turned and realized I was sitting next to two glowing people, CAAM curator Tyree Boyd-Pates and artist Genevieve Gaignard, who’s exhibition “Smell The Roses” opened as part of the museum’s new programming. Everyone was excited and ripe with smiles and questions ready to absorb some of the knowledge that helped Mark ascend to his stature as an international artist.

The conversation began with Mark’s background and his journey from being a hairdresser in Leimert Park to being an innovator and conductor of change in that same area through his Art + Practice brand. He spoke of the good and the bad of navigating this crazy space we call the art world and how setbacks played a part in his life. It immediately made me think of the setbacks we all experience going for our dreams. We never think that we are the only ones until we hear stories about triumph and then we realize its just a part of life. Mark was able to normalize setbacks and use them as learning tools to help fuel his drive to continue working.

I was really happy to finally meet Mark face to face and tell him how much I admired his work and his message. He was just as happy to hear me say it. I was so enamored that I felt such a connection to his story and mine that I left excited and inspired and ready to get to work. It’s always great when you get inspired by someone who’s work you already admired. It’s kind of like the icing on the cake. We talked more and found out that he lived not too far from my gallery space in West Adams so hopefully he will pay a visit and leave more inspiration around us. We all could use just a bit more greatness in our lives.

California African American Museum in located at 600 State Drive in Exposition Park, Los Angeles, CA 90037. Museum hours are Monday – Friday 8:30am-5:00pm, Tuesday – Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm; Sunday 11:00am-5:00pm. Admission is FREE.

Badir McCleary Editor in Chief

Badir McCleary is an independent consultant. He holds a M.A. in Arts Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art (Los Angeles/London) where he focused on creating art markets and with an undergraduate degree in Internet Computing from Cabrini University focusing on e-commerce and digital trends. Badir enjoys working with artists and consider them crucial to informing his practice.

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