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  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mark Bradford’s work is defined by a twin process. As he puts it, ‘my practice is décollage and collage at the same time. Décollage: I take it away; collage: I immediately add it right back.’ (Mark Bradford, ‘Mark Bradford: Politics, Process, and Postmodernism,' Art21). He starts with pieces of found media, among them posters, fliers and hairstylists’ endpapers, and from them creates densely layered pieces: accretions of text and image. In this process, remnants of experience are piled atop each other, alternately rearranged and subsumed.

    Discussing his method, Bradford relates ‘I may pull raw material from a very specific place, culturally from a particular place, but then I abstract it. I’m only really interested in abstraction; but social abstraction, not just 1950s abstraction.’ (Mark Bradford in conversation with Susan May, Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank,, London: White Cube, 2013, p.83). Often deriving this raw material from the streets of Los Angeles’ Leimert Park, the extent to which it remains decipherable varies between pieces. In the present lot, constituent parts are largely legible. The words ‘SELL’, ‘HAIR’ and the telephonic fragment ‘1-887’ suggest that the source is promotional material for the sale of hair - a practice which Bradford would have encountered working in his mother’s salon. Yet in the repeated and blurrily overlaid iterations of these characters, the original material dissipates. It is replaced by a more nebulous presence: an abstracted atmosphere, emerging yet distinct from the raw material.

    Bradford is interested in echoes, in ghosts, and in waning: as he recounts, ‘I think all of my work comes out of the body and the disappearances, traces and hints of the body, through the traces of the materials that were there.’ (Mark Bradford, in conversation with Susan May, Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank, exh. cat., London: White Cube, 2013, p.84). There are many such traces in the lot at hand, not least the in the story of the material itself; the text is a product of human industry which has been written, printed and then displayed. But there is another layer of resonance too. The abstracted reference to the beauty industry rallies a history of experience; hair is a remnant of the body, cut off or re-attached in the act of grooming. Humanity reverberates about the piece, felt most acutely by its departure.

    If Bradford’s work is an abstracted vision of the society from which it emerges, it is also an abstraction of the severances and dissonances inherent to that society. In the present lot, the text not only overlaps, but is cut across by a series of wound-like slashes. Redolent of disturbance and distress, the idea of rupture is central to the artist’s practice: ‘I rupture ... Because that’s what history does ... So I always try to have these interruptions in my work.’ (Mark Bradford in conversation with Abraham Ritchie, Artslant Worldwide, August 2011). In more recent years this sensibility has continued to find expression. Discussing the scarred map-like canvases of his 2013 show Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank, he reflects on physical disruption in the urban environment; ‘what is interesting to me about freeways is that they always cut through poor neighbourhoods.’ (Mark Bradford in conversation with Susan May, Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank, exh. cat., London: White Cube, 2013, p.75). Here, as in the present lot, his focus is on dialogue between space and human experience; between environment and existence.

    With an eye to the societal, Bradford’s abstraction is related to that of the Danish Situationist Asger Jorn. As the artist himself remarks, ‘going back to Jorn, he really had a social politic, it wasn’t really that life is separate from the society in which you live.’ (Mark Bradford, in conversation with Susan May, Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank, exh. cat., London: White Cube, 2013, p.84). Even as he abstracts and takes possession of his materials, Bradford realises they bring with them the vestiges of their environment, never losing sight of the memory with which they are inflected. Through layers of repetition and grids of enmeshed lines, the artist conjures a powerful sense of space – both his own, and that of the city. From a particularly L.A. sensibility, a wider picture of existence emerges; Bradford’s dense accumulation of material brings with it all the complexity of human life.

  • 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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Property From A Distinguished Private Collection


Waiting on Forever

mixed media collage on canvas
102.6 x 122.3 cm (40 3/8 x 48 1/8 in.)
Signed, titled and dated 'Waiting on Forever 2011 Mark Bradford' on the reverse.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £458,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
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Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm