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Circa 1992
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Mark Bradford reflects on the Rodney King riots.

1992. Besides being my birth year, thus making it arguably one of the greatest in history, is also the year of the Rodney King riots...which now that I am thinking about it may offset the greatness of 1992. So yeah, the Rodney King riots, perhaps you heard of them? You know, that one fateful night the resulted in some of the largest race riots in American history? Well, let me jog your memory and and drop a few factoids on you from that night.

Rodney King, a Los Angeles taxi driver and soon to become ultimate martyr, was pulled over after a high speed car chase by four LAPD officers and brutally beaten. Surely, much to the officers chagrin, the beating was videotaped and the officers were soon brought to court for assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. Somehow the (mostly white) jury decided that the officers were in the right and were quickly acquitted. Well, needless to say, this one did not go over very well and riots soon broke out across South Central Los Angeles. Raging on for five days and resulting in 50 deaths, 2,000 injuries, and over $1 billion in damages, Los Angeles was forced to declare a state of emergency. That my friends, is an uber short synopsis of one of our most historic race riots.

Now for our boy Mark Bradford. A native of South Central LA, Bradford is no fool to the racial class warfare that has raged on in his homeland. In fact, he has made an entire career out of publicizing life in South Central and being a voice for social change. In this piece, Bradford has enlisted his quintessential style of collaging found paper to create huge work with an even larger impact. This piece reads “REBUILD SOUTH CENTRAL WITHOUT LIQUOR STORES!! / RECONSTRUIRAL SUR CENTRAL SIN NEGOCIOS DE BEBIDAS ALCOHOLICAS!!”. This piece may have been created over two decades after the riots, yet his message is still tragically on point.

Bradford has always used his artistic voice as a form of social commentary, yet the Rodney King riots hit home particularly close for him. In addition to being black and from the same area, Bradford actually used fencing and plywood left over from the riots to create some of his older works. His voice becomes that much more palpable when you learn that he has literally been touched by the Rodney King riots. No posers in here!