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Corner of Desire and Piety

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72 collages: mixed media on board
135 3/4 x 344 1/4 in. (344.8 x 874.4 cm)

About This Artwork

Mark Bradford’s Corner of Desire and Piety is so large, repetitive, and monochromatic that it behaves like a wall or blockade. The opaque silver surface initially deflects viewers from its impenetrable field; the text, however, creates an opening that reveals the work’s true magnitude. Each of the seventy-two panels announces the delivery of propane intended for FEMA trailers in New Orleans. The work reflects the conundrum many residents faced after Hurricane Katrina when such deliveries were often exploited for profit. They had to make a choice: fulfill their own needs while making some extra cash or patiently suffer along with everyone else. Though the actual streets named Desire and Piety run parallel through the Lower Ninth Ward, the predominantly black neighborhood devastated by the flooding, Bradford forges a metaphorical intersection — a painful choice — stoked by the tragedy of Katrina.