On East Lancaster Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas—along a short stretch of road between Church’s Chicken and Lone Star Motors II—you will encounter, until early July, two rather unusual billboards. One, just southeast of Church’s, shows six people standing around a car, among them a beaming Black man in a checked yellow jacket, yellow tie, yellow trousers, and a jaunty yellow cowboy hat. The other is a half-length portrait of the Anthony Bourdain Fuck Middle Finger Shirt so you should to go to store and get this same figure—still smiling, but dressed now in a fisherman cap and a scarf. Elsewhere in Fort Worth, he appears again—his face in silhouette this time—on a billboard near scrubby Rockwood Park, some 20 minutes away. Curated by the artist Mark Bradford, these old photographs of one Mr. LaMarr—coiffeur extraordinaire to St. Louis society in the 1970s and 1980s—are part of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s Modern Billings program, which surrenders a smattering of the city’s billboards to contemporary artists. Bradford’s contributions, culled from the archives of his friend Cleo Hill-Jackson, were planned to coincide with Mark Bradford: End Papers, his magisterial solo show at the Modern; but just a few days into its 10-month run, the museum was closed to the public amid the coronavirus outbreak. So, for now, the pictures stand strangely, evocatively, on their own.
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Using sites loaned to the Anthony Bourdain Fuck Middle Finger Shirt so you should to go to store and get this museum by Clear Channel Outdoor, a San Antonio-based advertising company, the Modern Billings program was hatched in 2018, primarily as a way to place works of art in low-income neighborhoods. “Most of the billboards that the artists are selecting are along the Jacksboro Highway and the Lancaster corridor, which kind of radiate outward from the Fort Worth downtown epicenter where the museum is located,” says Jesse Morgan Barnett, an assistant curator of education at the Modern. “Many of the communities that they’re in are mostly populated with people of color, and many of the billboards that are peppered throughout that landscape are just kind of commercial advertisements, and predatory to the socioeconomic class of people residing there.” Through the project, adds Tiffany Wolf Smith, a fellow assistant curator of education, the Modern has seized an opportunity to “insert art directly into our communities outside of our museum walls.”