Constitution IV

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    London, White Cube, Mark Bradford Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank 16 October 2013 - 12 January 2014
    New York, Brooklyn Museum, 27 July 2014-8 March 2015 (on loan)

  • Literature

    Mark Bradford: Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank (exh. cat), White Cube, London, 2013, p.49 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mark Bradford’s vast tactile works characterised by their décollaged surfaces, evoke a sense of transience and instability. In compositions such as Constitution IV however, these ideas transcend material objects and infiltrate less physical subjects consequently, indicating the fragility of seemingly solid notions, morals or in this case, laws.

    Constitution IV immerses the viewer completely. Like a hubbub of voices speaking over each other, words and meanings are disjointed, fragmented and obscured in the layered and shredded nature of Bradford’s composition. Using printed text through his collage and décollage technique the canvas becomes a palimpsest-like surface offering insights into further meanings and depths, whilst remaining ambiguous and indecipherable. Thus, the viewer is drawn into Bradford’s works in order to try and draw meaning from the myriad of letters flickering in and out of focus. The effect is only heightened by the artist’s gestural use of paper. In fact, despite his works’ painterly appearance they are often comprised purely of paper thus, are predominantly an amalgamation of the inked printed sources Bradford uses and his physical manipulation of their surfaces. In turn, the texture is constantly reworked, with the artist sanding back and overlaying the surface of the work until he feels the work is complete. This approach allows the artist to capitalise on the spontaneous and random nature of these erasures- creating a new possibilities and directions with which to take the work.

    Through Bradford’s vibrant and enticing visual displays the artist bridges high and low art, frequently incorporating found materials from his urban environment such as billboard sheets, posters and written texts from media outputs. In this manner, his canvases reflect the New York City culture they arise from, whilst mirroring the physical layering of posters and advertisements on bridge walls or even in the subway stations. Hence, Bradford brings to light what he refers to as ‘social abstraction’ occurring all around us every day – traces of which are found on the streets of the cities we inhabit. However, Constitution IV draws further inspiration from another integral facet of American culture; Bradford cites entire sections of the US constitution over four canvases that form his Constitution series from 2013. By physically shredding and scraping strips of this important text, Bradford in one way arguably reduces its historical and political significance. On the other hand, the vibrant flickering surface evokes the Constitution’s status as a living document, constantly open to modification. The striations of text on display in this work therefore, seem to portray the evolution of the Constitution, exposing all of its additions and changes like the layers of a sedimentary rock uncovered through a cross-section of the earth.

  • Artist Bio

    Mark Bradford

    American • 1961

    Now acclaimed worldwide, Mark Bradford was first recognized on the contemporary art scene in 2001, following the inclusion of his multi-layered collage paintings in Thelma Golden’s Freestyle exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The groundbreaking exhibition introduced him alongside 27 other emerging African American artists as part of a generation of "post-Black" artists who sought to transcend the label of "Black artist”, while still deeply exploring and re-defining the complex notions of blackness. Bradford’s ascent has been as awe-inspiring as it is deserving: from critical attention in Freestyle, to his first solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2007, to his installation at the 2017 Venice Biennial as the first African American artist to represent the United States.

    Critical of the ways in which the annals of art history divorced abstract art from its political context, particularly when looking at the Abstract Expressionists working in the 1950s, Bradford has endeavored to “make abstract painting and imbue it with policy, and political, and gender, and race, and sexuality”. Bradford’s pursuit of what he has termed “social abstraction”, that is, “abstract art with a social or political context clinging to the edges”, is deeply indebted to his choice of materials that allow him to imbue his works with a proliferation of readings, from art historical, to political, to autobiographical.

    Bradford’s choice of material has always been deeply connected to his biography and everyday existence. While Bradford’s early work utilized end-papers, the use of which was inspired by time at his mother’s hair salon, in the mid-2000s the artist shifted towards using paper material sourced on the streets of his immediate neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. Despite the fact that Bradford is known for making paintings out of found printed material, his works only reveals glimpses of their original documentary intent. Working in the lineage of the Dadaists and the Nouveau Réalisme movement, Bradford honed a refined technique of a décollage, a process defined by cutting, tearing away or otherwise removing, pieces of an original image.

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Constitution IV

2013
mixed media on canvas
335.3 x 304.8 cm (132 x 120 in.)
Signed 'Mark Bradford' on the reverse.

Estimate
£2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

sold for £3,778,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
psumner@phillips.com
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 14 October 2015 7pm