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A Siren Beside a Ship

Black background with white mixed media on top.

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  • Black background with white mixed media on top.




Mark Bradford
American, born 1961

About this artwork

Mark Bradford’s monumental abstract paintings comprise countless small fragments — often materials scavenged from storefronts, telephone poles, and billboards in the South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, where he grew up. The artist has explained, “I love the papered ‘mosaics’ I see in the community advertising the latest latest… . [When] the billboards are nice and thick and are about to fall off … I pull down what I need to create my collages… . Like those tagged up, repainted, tagged up, sanded, and repainted walls you pass everyday on the street, my process is both reductive and additive.” Bradford is also known for redeploying hair dye and wave endpapers from his mother’s salon, where he worked on and off for many years, and more recently for using home-repair caulking to amplify ridges and depths. It is usually impossible to recognize such individual materials on his surfaces; the power of Bradford’s work is the power of cumulative materiality, at once enigmatic and evocative.

The sweeping composition of A Siren beside a Ship is built up from a mix of carbon paper, caulking, and acrylic gel medium that Bradford relentlessly layered, sanded, and layered again to create a dense, suggestive texture. The surface’s striations recall rippling water and seascape paintings, which the artist has said summon for him the dark histories of conquistadors, colonization, and the transatlantic slave trade. Given this work’s title, the wavelike markings also reference the dangerously enchanting voices of the Sirens of Greek mythology, as well as the sound of a modern-day alarm, combining a sense of allure with one of urgent warning.


Currently Off View


Contemporary Art


Mark Bradford


A Siren Beside a Ship


United States (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Mixed media on canvas


259.1 × 365.7 cm (102 × 144 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of the Joyner/Giuffrida Collection

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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