Mark Bradford’s 150 Portrait Tone, a mural-size composition that contains elements of both abstraction and realism, is based on an idea for a work that the artist conceived after the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in July 2016. Castile, a nutrition services supervisor at an elementary school, was shot after being pulled over in his car—an incident that was livestreamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to him.
The painting features excerpts of Reynolds’s dialogue from the video. The title, 150 Portrait Tone, refers to the name and color code of the pink acrylic used throughout the painting. Like the now-obsolete “flesh” crayon in the Crayola 64 box (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.