Mark Bradford - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Mark Bradford, 'Value 35', Lot 9

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

  • 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, 8 May 2010 - 20 May 2012, no. 41, p. 228 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    A laborious and masterful amalgamation of billboard paper, advertising hoardings and myriad materials salvaged from the streets of Los Angeles, Value 35, 2010, is a powerful example of Mark Bradford’s investigation of painting as an emotional and psychological arena. Adopting the appearance of a shrivelled poster, a patch of scorched earth or the TV’s white noise, the work is at once materially additive and visually diminished, prompting the viewer to ponder the nature of its ambivalent composition. Held in tension between processes of collage and décollage, Value 35’s volatile surface reveals discreet compounds of carmine red and ocean blue emerging from horizontal morsels, whilst simultaneously receding into densely textured layers. This aesthetic of expressive⁠ - and destructive⁠ - abstraction, Bradford achieves by gluing gauges of various sizes to the surface of the billboard paper, before tearing away collaged additions and sanding down the manipulated result, effectively exposing the colourful strata of the source material. An exceptional example from Bradford’s idiosyncratic oeuvre and prodigiously innovative artistic technique, Value 35 has been exhibited at the artist’s seminal travelling solo show, touring from the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, to the Dallas Museum of Art, and finally to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, from May 2010 to May 2012.

    Now touted as an unmissable figure from the canon of contemporary art, Bradford first rose within 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. On this occasion, he was placed alongside 27 other emerging African American artists who were later collectively known as a generation of ‘post-black’ artists, striving to move past the label of ‘black artist’, whilst continuing to explore the complexities of black subjectivity. ‘As a 21st-century African-American artist’, Bradford said, ‘when I look back at Abstract Expressionism, I get the politics, I get the problems, I get the theories, I can read [Clyfford Still’s] manifestos, but I think there are other ways of looking through abstraction. To use the whole social fabric of our society as a point of departure for abstraction reanimates it, dusts it off. It becomes really interesting to me, and supercharged’. Infusing abstraction with a sense of intimacy – something Bradford declares ‘Clyfford Still still pushes back on’ – the Los Angeles-based artist transliterates multiple aspects of his identity on canvas, namely the meandering rhythms of his city’s urban landscape, with a loose figurative impulse that operates at a crossroads between abstraction and representation (Mark Bradford, quoted in ‘Mark Bradford on Clyfford Still', The Artist Project: What Artists See When They Look At Art, New York, 2017, p. 46).

    Cementing his conviction that art and life are more than just closely intertwined, Bradford remarked that his marginal status – solidified throughout the years for the colour of his skin, the originality of his physique (Bradford is, ‘if not the best painter working in America today, then certainly the tallest’), and his sexual orientation – had in fact become the beating heart of his approach to painting (Guy Trebay, ‘The Lives of Jeffrey Deitch’, The New York Times, 19 October 2012, online). ‘That feeds into the work’, he conceded. ‘Pulling things from the streets, pulling things that are thrown away, pulling things that don’t belong in the art world and willing them into it – demanding that these materials sit next to a Monet. That’s part of it’ (Mark Bradford, quoted in Lanre Bakare, 'Mark Bradford’, The Guardian, 14 November 2017, online). With Bradford, painting thus becomes an assertive force; an act that allows him to establish and ascertain his individuality as a singular artist. Exuding the energy of a raw jewel, Value 35 is a precious embodiment of the dynamic Bradford cultivates in his practice. It is evocative of Los Angeles’ urban underbelly, whilst simultaneously bringing to mind the dreamed treasures to be found on the sustained, careful excavation of archaeological sites.

    Executed in 2010, Value 35 represents the culmination of a decade-long investigation that turned away from Bradford’s earlier grid works, and instead navigated towards an aesthetic of fragmentation and monumentality. Presented alongside four paintings of the same dimensions and titular reference at Bradford’s major travelling show from 2010 to 2012, Value 35 and its sister works elude the gargantuan scale that the artist experimented with works like Helter Skelter, 2007, whilst nonetheless remaining sizeable enough to evoke the arresting grandeur of the billboards they are culled from. ‘Bradford’s behemoth collages… are as though as the street as just as resistant to simple answers or unearned beauty’ (Thomas Micchelli, ‘Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century Collage’, The Brooklyn Rail, 6 February 2008, online). Reflective of this statement, Value 35 presents a form of abstraction that eschews immediate comprehension, instead performing as a host of sensations. Though it visually resembles Clyfford Still’s layered canvases and jagged edges, Jackson Pollock’s animated surfaces, and Jasper John’s ingenious juxtapositions, the present work radiates deeply personal socio-political power. It transposes what Bradford has known and lived on canvas, crystallising his interest in ‘the junctions demarcating the natural and the urban, and in how these converge and overlap’ (Mark Bradford, quoted in ‘Call and Response: A Conversation with Mark Bradford’, Mark Bradford: Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank, exh. cat., White Cube, London, 2013, p. 75).

    Working in the lineage of Dadaists and Nouveau Réalistes – namely Mimmo Rotella and Jacques Villeglé, who similarly worked with lacerated cinema posters – Bradford honed his technique of décollage with irrepressible fervour and unflinching passion, ceaselessly infusing his creations with elements that reflected his immediate surroundings in South Central Los Angeles. Irreducibly enamoured with his craft, he drenched each new work with a portion of his soul, conceding that ‘Every painting is my first painting’ (Mark Bradford, quoted in Jenny Block, ‘Mark Bradford Explores Abstraction at the Dallas Museum of Art’, Dallas Observer, 13 October 2011, online). As such, Bradford’s masterful compositions avoid the distant feel imparted in his predecessors’ décollage works. And unlike his Abstract Expressionist forebears, whose painterly thrust was generally associated to a numinous move against the tides of the external world, Bradford’s expression is intrinsically connected to the objects around him, anchored in his phenomenological surroundings. 'Life, work - it’s all very organic and fluid', the artist remarked (Mark Bradford, quoted in 'The Details', Art in America, 2 September 2014, online). Echoing this resounding assertion, Bradford's creative gesture signals an embracing of all that is not art, conjuring vital works that are from here and now.

    With its red, blue and green hues piercing through the collage’s otherwise dominantly white composition, Value 35 is like a two-dimensional map drawing attention to the physicality of its chosen pigments. Demonstrating Bradford’s commitment to ‘slippage’, the ultimate intention of Value 35 remains open-ended and in flux. With it, Bradford presents a work that not only explores the vital tension between abstraction and representation in contemporary art, but crucially invites the viewer to confront some of the most pressing issues to reckon with in today’s socio-political landscape.

Property from a Distinguished Los Angeles Collection


Value 35

signed with the artist's initial, titled and dated 'Value 35 2010 M' on the reverse
billboard paper, paper collage, acrylic gel medium, carbon paper, nylon string and mixed media on canvas
122 x 152.6 cm (48 x 60 1/8 in.)
Executed in 2010.

£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for £1,935,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019