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  • Video

    Mark Bradford 'Drag Her to the Path', 2011

    Presented through the artist’s characteristic and methodical stripped down medley of media, paint, paper, newsprint and carbon paper, Drag Her to the Path is a seminal work by Mark Bradford, addressing the artist’s concern with American Civil Rights.

  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
    Private Collection, Hong Kong

  • Catalogue Essay

    Presented through the artist’s characteristic and methodical stripped down medley of media, paint, paper, newsprint and carbon paper, Drag Her to the Path is a seminal work by Mark Bradford, addressing the artist’s concern with American Civil Rights. Cascading across the pictorial field the dense, symbolic landscape of ridges and undulations is a monumental example of how Bradford’s additive and subtractive technique confronts crucial historical and social subjects. The artist’s preoccupation with issues of racial discrimination, urban poverty and social injustice is masterfully introduced through his choice of emotive title. Instilling yet more drama into the composition, the explicit statement ‘Drag her to the path’ injects the surface of the work with a narrative structure. Weaving these issues into his conceptual framework the artist transforms the work from a mere aesthetic masterpiece into a provocative statement in keeping with Bradford’s assertion that all painting is subversively figurative, even abstract painting.

    Profoundly nostalgic, Drag Her to the Path, is filled with Bradford’s distinctive character, confronting the viewer with a visually rich composition and a web of visual semantics. Typically topographic, terrestrial and gritty, Bradford’s paintings have been understood to address, result from, and even to some extent depict, the immediate urban conditions of the artist’s studio in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, where the artist continues to live and work. Like Ellsworth Kelly, who for over sixty years has drawn inspiration for his compositions from shapes extracted from the world, Bradford is profoundly influenced by his local neighbourhood. His paintings are thus linked to the particularities of lived experience in the urban environment. The Los Angeles writer Ernest Hardy describes the paintings as reportage in being close to the streets and accessible to all: ‘There are no velvet ropes in Mark Bradford’s art’ (Ernest Hardy, 'Border Crossings,' in Mark Bradford: Merchant Posters, New York, 2010, p. 7).

    A photograph of Lake View Terrace from 1991 by American artist Lewis Baltz depicts the largely white Los Angeles suburb which exists in close proximity to Bradford’s studio. What at first appears to be an unremarkable image similarly draws meaning from its title, 11777 Foothill Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. The sun beats down on a dry grid of streets and sidewalks that not only constructs a neighbourhood but also attempts to organise and constrain social tensions. A portrait of an absence, the image records with almost forensic blandness, the site of Rodney King’s brutal beating by LAPD officers in March 1991. With his classically distanced eye for the violent potential beneath the suburban sprawl, Baltz captured a scene both charged with an absence of the trauma that, a year later, would cause a city to implode. It is a complex portrait of a body in crisis – King’s beaten body, the fractured social body, and the anguished civic body – and of the radical and economic tensions that cyclically and epidemically plague the American urban landscape.

    Near to this very site, Leimert Park and the Crenshaw district became a poignant centre of African American history in Los Angeles after the Watts riots of 1965 and the area retains that status today. In the aftermath of the 1992 riots, Leimert Park was, in Bradford’s words, ‘scorched earth.’ These were the second riots in South Los Angeles in less than thirty years. The time span marked a disturbing regression, a chronic reversal that plays out in urban situations across the country in which economic tensions become racialised and perverted inward. These are the very foundations of Bradford’s artistic production. Culling and excavating the walls of the city, the artist collects layers of advertisements, employment notices, merchant posters, maps and billboards – the very makeup and DNA of his city. Utilising collage and décollage devices, Bradford preserves the physical characteristics of his source material, exposing the tension between precise painterly gestures and the three-dimensionality of the found objects. Exploring the endless possibilities of composition, juxtaposing several materials, Bradford's work serves as a platform to engage with difficult realities. Citing Robert Rauschenberg as an influence with his ability to 'integrate the social and the artistic', to explore ideas whilst connecting to the 'real hard world' (Mark Bradford, in 'First Encounters with Rauschenberg: Mark Bradford', Tate Etc., issue 39, Spring 2017, online). Similarly Bradford masterfully incorporates a multitude of materials to express his spirit. In addition to the layering of materials, through tone and texture, the build up of colour and focus on black silhouettes, the work recalls the artist’s hero, Clifford Still’s monumental Abstract Expressionist paintings of black voids.

    The present work exemplifies the pioneering developments for which Bradford is today celebrated. Gradually accumulating the transient ephemera of urban life in South Los Angeles and reconfiguring it to create something that is at once timeless and highly engaged, Drag Her to the Path is a colossal abstract painting, forged through hard labour and an intent on addressing the history of the American Civil Rights movement.

  • 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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Drag Her to the Path

signed with the artist's initial, titled and dated 'M "Drag Her to the Path" 2011' on the reverse
mixed media collage on canvas
183.2 x 244.3 cm (72 1/8 x 96 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2011.

£1,800,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for £2,277,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 29 June 2017