Mark Bradford - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 4, 2016 | Phillips

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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.

  • Artist Biography

    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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Rat Catcher of Hamelin III

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

£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