Mark Bradford - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The merchant posters break it down. They always make everything feel urgent and get your attention really fast.”


    In The Father’s “NO,” 2007, we see a brilliant juxtaposition of thought and practice, message and medium, placement and displacement. As the layers of silver coated papers intertwine, the acrylic colors combine, and the text emerges, a myriad of patterns, both abstracted and representative, reveal Bradford’s interest in raw material and the surrounds from which they are embedded. The present lot exists as a mirror of Bradford’ upbringing: his childhood borough, his mother’s hair salon and the streets he meandered. Here Bradford reinvents landscape painting, but without a brush, easel and expensive paint. His palette is comprised only of materials outside the studio combined to create a lush and brilliant composition which marries all the traditions of painting – historical, landscape and portrait – into one. In the present lot, Bradford boldly and boundlessly creates a system of representation, combining social identities into a critical discourse.

    The merchant posters from which these works are inspired are pulled and plucked from the walls and streets of the inner city boroughs of Los Angeles. In all capitals, beneath the layers of application, we read, “Fathers, do you want child custody • divorce • visitation. 866 -72, Daddy.” A hotline to call for fathers to gain custody or visitation rights for their children is repeated six times across the works, each rendered in a different hue and application of acrylic, felt-tip pen and collage. The application of material conceals the surface with layers of deep acrylic and peeling papers, which is already abused from being torn from the site. Bradford adds and subtracts in bursts of color and medium, creating a trace of what the poster once read, but only a trace. As Bradford notes, “I make the text less readily readable slightly out of focus so that the viewer is forced to look more closely.” (Mark Bradford, correspondence with Christopher Bedford, November 2, 2009) Bradford’s reimagining of these posters takes the services they advertise out of public circulation and pushes the text further and further towards abstraction, weathering away the urgency of the message to produce something more akin to a ruin. A ghostly portrayal of the advertisement lingers in the background, brilliantly disguised by Bradford, but never fully erased.

  • 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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The Father’s “NO”

acrylic, felt-tip pen, silver coated paper, printed paper collage on gypsum
each 23 3/4 x 29 1/2 in. (60.3 x 74.9 cm.)
Each initialed and dated "MB 07" on the reverse.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $509,000

Contact Specialist
Zach Miner
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1256

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 May 2014 7PM