Mark Bradford - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011

  • Exhibited

    Columbus, Wexner Center for the Arts; Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Dallas Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Mark Bradford, May 8, 2010 - May 20, 2012, no. 49, pp. 218, 228 (illustrated, p. 219)
    Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Expanding Narratives: The Figure and the Ground, April 24 - December 16, 2018

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I understand transparency because of the erosion of paper. What fascinates me about surface is the way in which paper creates depth, but at the same time it still has its singular form. It’s one complete thing on top of another paper, and part of it’s eroded and bleeding through the other.” - Mark Bradford

    Selected for inclusion in Bradford’s first major traveling exhibition organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, the same year as its execution, NTSC is a hallmark example of the artist’s characteristic style of “social abstraction” or abstract art imbued with a social and political context. When considering the foundations of Bradford’s practice, one can imagine how his works might resonate with socially-conscious patrons as well. Since 2011, NTSC has resided in the esteemed collection of Deone Jackman, a passionate and beloved supporter of the arts on the South Side of Chicago. In 2007, Jackman experienced artist Theaster Gates’ seminal exhibition Plate Convergences at the Hyde Park Arts Center in Chicago. She would go on to fund the development of what would become Gates’ Dorchester Projects, embodying a true testament to her visionary purpose and unparalleled support of the arts. Showcasing her continued commitment to enriching the city’s arts scene, Jackman loaned NTSC to the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art for its 2018 group exhibition Expanding Narratives: The Figure and the Ground.

    A tactile exploration of undulating grays, NTSC belongs to Bradford’s series of graphite collages, which he began in 2009 as an exploration of the formal qualities of paper through an intense, handmade process. To create these works, Bradford layers sheets of blank carbon newsprint – his “graphite” – bleaching one side and then binding them with a clear acrylic medium. Air bubbles, tears and misaligned sheets of paper inevitably result from this process, as the artist is forced to work against the limits of the fast-drying acrylic. In his final step, Bradford sands down these layers to create gradations of gray, producing compositions with exquisite, rippling patterns.

    In NTSC, transparency, nuance and depth materialize in the subtly variegated, alluring surface. This complex visual result is the manifestation of a laborious, yet fortuitous process which engages the viewer’s eye in its delicate intricacies. Bradford explains: “You normally want the paper to be smooth, but what happens with the blanks is that when I layer them, I get all of these wrinkles. And then when I sand it, the color comes off…And the more layers there are…the sanding catches the layers underneath and you get this really interesting variation of charcoal grays. It starts to look like a Vija Celmins from far away” (Mark Bradford, quoted in Carol S. Eliel, “Dynamism and Quiet Whispers: Conversations with Mark Bradford”, Mark Bradford, exh. cat., Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, 2010, p. 62).

    Beyond his interest in process, Bradford embraces a philosophy of art making that is anchored firmly in the social world. Titled after the National Television System Committee, one of the most common systems for delivering television signals, NTSC alludes to the transfer and dissemination of information in our contemporary society. Bradford titles his works with purpose, explaining: “sometimes they will have a social or philosophical point that I am trying to make…I want the title to create a layer of social vocabulary underneath the painting” (Mark Bradford, quoted in Mark Bradford, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, wall text). Much like the multilayered physical process Bradford uses in creating his works, his titles, too, reveal different strata of meanings. In the present lot, the vibrating shades of blacks, whites and grays immediately call to mind television static, simulating the appearance of a familiar conduit, yet intentionally obscuring the content within.

    Measuring approximately the size of a standard newspaper, complete with a half-inch white border, NTSC visually mimics what is perhaps the ultimate tool for the circulation of information. Here, Bradford situates himself within an art historical lineage, ranging from Dada to Pop to the present day, exploring the media outlet as a powerful instrument through which social, political and cultural norms are constructed. However, through his own distinctive manipulation of this charged medium, Bradford blurs the content of the source material, eschewing narrative and instead inviting viewers to insert their own personal stories. Typical of the works in his celebrated oeuvre, NTSC is a visually powerful composition that is also rich with content, actively exploring ideas about people and places, and the different networks that bind them.

  • 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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Collection of Deone Jackman, Chicago



signed with the artist's initial, titled and dated "NTSC 2010 M" on the reverse
mixed media on panel
34 x 22 in. (86.4 x 55.9 cm.)
Executed in 2010.

$350,000 - 450,000 

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Day Sale, Afternoon Session
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 450 Park Avenue