Mark Bradford Helter Skelter II, 2007
Created specifically for the New Museum's thematic group exhibition Collage: The Unmonumental Picture, Mark Bradford's Helter Skelter II, 2007, is an extraordinary masterwork in the artist's pioneering practice of complex psychological portraits of Los Angeles. Fittingly, Helter Skelter II will now be returning to its city of origin, where its companion piece Helter Skelter I is currently on view at the Broad Museum.
Mark Bradford Helter Skelter I, 2007. Sold for £8,671,500—a world auction record for the artist—at Phillips Berkeley Square in March 2018. This work is now on view in the permanent collection of Broad Museum, Los Angeles.
Incorporating found city detritus in an ambitious critique of the history, social structures and lived experiences of the artist's urban environment, an intricate network of lines explodes across the enormous canvas of Helter Skelter II, breaking the gleaming silver surface like cracks in the earth. Elusive fragments of text and imagery begin to reveal themselves up close, only to coalesce into abstraction from afar. Catapulted onto the contemporary art scene in 2001, Bradford has been internationally lauded for his pursuit of socially and politically conscious abstraction.
['Helter Skelter II' addresses] the persistent issues of race, crime and celebrity culture that continue to structure urban America.
Helter Skelter II summons the Manson Family cult murders in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. The attacks were spurred by Charles Manson's attempts at igniting an apocalyptic race war and blaming black militants for his murders of celebrities — which he eerily dubbed 'Helter Skelter' after the Beatles song of that name. The gouged and torn canvas bears witness to the artist's clever ability to exploit the creative and expressive force of destruction, addressing the persistent issues of race, crime and celebrity culture that continue to structure urban America.
Helter Skelter II represents the culmination of a profound shift in the artist's practice, from his earlier grid-like work towards the more decentralized, diffuse and monumental compositions that have become the hallmarks of his mature visual idiom. With its fascinating blend of silver-toned abstraction and sharp-edged message, Helter Skelter invites us to confront some of the most pressing issues of race, inequality and injustice which continue to characterize today's socio-political landscape.
Los Angeles Viewing 8-11 April
7017 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038 (map)
Auction 16 May 5pm EDT
20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Phillips New York
450 Park Avenue, New York (map)