Rat Catcher of Hamelin III

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  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owener

  • Exhibited

    Istanbul, Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 17 September - 13 November 2011
    San Francisco, SFMOMA, Mark Bradford, 18 February - 27 May 2012

  • Literature

    White Cube, Mark Bradford: Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank, London, p. 126 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Within just two decades Mark Bradford has established an extraordinary artistic legacy by persistently grappling with the strictures of Abstract Painting. His formidable corpus of works navigates the variegated and often disparate social and topological structures of his home city of Los Angeles, establishing a practice that is richly layered in both material and meaning. Bradford clothes his canvases with the tattered accoutrements of the streets that surround his studio, layering fragments of billboard paper, posters, household paint and urban detritus before assailing the surface with sandpaper and hardware tools. The intricate lines are gouged from the surface as if the artist has literally carved out the paths and patterns of the streets around him, mapping out the architectural structures from the same materials that once clung to their facades. Within these rugged lines one is able to peer into the preceding matrices that represent earlier stages in the work’s development, as if to observe a concealed history deposited within the very sediment that constitutes it. This is the artists’ history, the city’s history and the history of art combined into a single gesture. Amongst the unruly furrows one can find the palpable textures of Robert Ryman, the gestural expressivity of Karel Appel, the enigmatic layering of Asger Jorn and the rugged chromatic might of Clyfford Still - all holding court with the slogans and saturated colours that constitute the commercial images with see daily. In this respect, Bradford stands alone. No artist has ever constructed paintings in quite his manner, and rarely have they solved the problems of art as shrewdly or bravely.

    Rat Catcher of Hamelin III is a masterful demarcation of this revered methodology, and offers us a rare insight to the artist’s own lived history. On July 7 2010, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested a man suspected of murdering at least 10 women since the mid-1980s, known colloquially as the ‘Grim-Sleeper’. In an attempt to identify other potential victims, the police publicly released more than 180 photos of mostly African-American women, posting their images on 50 billboards throughout the city along with the caption ‘anyone wanting to remain anonymous may call Crimestoppers.’ Many of the people depicted were the family and friends of the suspect and the others become the subject of intense scrutiny that was caused without their consultation. Amid the ensuing controversy the billboards were taken down, and Bradford contacted authorities to appropriate them for his own image-making. Breathing new meaning into the already historically saturated materials Bradford established a percipient voice amongst the prevailing abstraction of his works. Though their legibility has faded, you can still make out the fragmented phrases: ‘possession of the serial [killer],’ ‘these people,’ ‘these faces?’ and ‘dubbed in the media’ which act as the haunting traces of a dark period in the history of South Central Los Angeles.

    Bradford’s concern with the socio-political relationship with power is clear here. He presents us with an abstract vision of life in South Central Los Angeles as he has experienced it; a disjointed urban chaos steeped in memories, conflicts and social injustice. His is an uncompromising vision, one that lays his feelings bare so that the viewer’s reaction shares in the honesty of his ambition.

Ο ◆6

Rat Catcher of Hamelin III

mixed media on canvas
304.8 x 320 cm (120 x 125 7/8 in.)
Executed in 2011.

Estimate
£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

sold for £3,733,000

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2016