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Enter and Exit the New Negro

Mark Bradford (1961) Enter and Exit the New Negro, 2000 Acrylic and perm endpapers on canvas The Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum purchase with funds provided by the Acquisition Committee  2001.9

From a distance the composition of Enter and Exit the New Negro appears to be a simple monochromatic grid. A closer look reveals that the repeating squares across the canvas are hundreds of semitransparent endpapers, used for permanent-wave treatments in hair salons. Mark Bradford’s adept manipulation of these distinctive artistic materials speaks to his interest in complicating conventional understandings of abstract art. For him, abstraction is a way to highlight the cultural significance of Black beauty salons, as opposed to obscuring the endpapers’ original context.