Today, July 6th, is the four year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Castile was shot five times while his girlfriend and her four year old daughter were in the car.
Mark Bradford’s 150 Portrait Tone, 2017, currently at LACMA, is a devastating large scale work that uses excerpts from Philando Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds’s dialogue from the video she live streamed on Facebook from the incident.
From LACMA’s wall description of the work-
Bradford notes that he was moved by the multiple subjects Reynolds simultaneously addressed and the different spaces they occupied: her boyfriend, Castile, next to her (“stay with me”); the officer outside the car (“please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this”); God (“Lord, please Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone”); as well as the unknown receiver on the other side of her lifestream (“please don’t tell me he just went like that”).
Like many of Bradford’s works, the mural-size composition contains elements of both abstraction and realism. In places, layers of manipulated paint render the text almost illegible. The dark form in the background, however, evokes all-too-real associations with the horrific shooting, such as Castile’s twisted arm and the dark-red bloodstain spread across his white shirt, both visible in the live stream feed.
The title, “150 Portrait Tone”, refers to the name and color code of the pink acrylic used throughout the painting (most conspicuous in a large patch at the work’s bottom edge). Like the now-obsolete “flesh” crayon in the Crayola 64 box (the color was renamed “peach” in 1962), the color “portrait tone” carries inherent assumptions about who, exactly, is being depicted. In the context of Bradford’s painting, the title presents a sobering commentary on power and representation.