Vaughn Spann - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • A pale yellow “X” emerges as if from volcanic ash in Vaughn Spann’s Marked Man, 2019. Bolded in a distinct serif typeface, the letter defines Spann’s significant Marked Man series. In this body of work Spann explores the formal qualities of the letter “X” while also drawing upon themes of memory, activism, history of art and the artist’s identity as a Black man. The present work is part of a repeated investigation into the graphic qualities of the letter but contains a weightier conceptual exploration of racial violence.


    Spann first acknowledges the Marked Man series in formal terms, “They came from an interest in assigning new meaning to an extremely recognizable form. How can I take an X, allow it to be my muse for painting, invite conversations of color, line, form,” but stresses the importance of allowing the form to “open deeper conversations.”i Indeed, Marked Man originates from Spann’s pivotal and sadly familiar experience of systemic racism: “I found myself severely traumatized by a stop and frisk altercation during college as I was profiled by police while leaving a study session. I felt the weight of having to spread my legs and hold my hands up in the air which while feel defenseless, violated and infuriated which sparked an interest into the form.”ii This notably coincided with Spann studying at Yale University under the tutelage of Claudia Rankine, whose examination of daily racial aggressions and social interactions against black men was pivotal for Spann’s development of his Marked Man series.


    The act of creating each work in the series represents a distinct individual that is one amongst a group. Each “X” is a person, a target and a specific variable. Created by an energetic application of thickly polymer paint, the unique contours and subtle colors of each work provide the grounds for repeated formal and conceptual exploration. The present example reads particularly like the product of geological forces and is a monument to a distinct personality. 


     Vaughn Spann in Keith Estiler, “Vaughn Spann Releases ‘Cosmic Symbiote’ Print in Support of Black Lives Matter,” Hypebeast, October 13, 2020, online

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 2019

    • Artist Biography

      Vaughn Spann

      Vaughn Spann is an American contemporary artist whose practice explores the natures of space, memory, and time using the ostensibly competing languages of abstraction and figuration. Approaching his work through traditional formalistic lenses focusing on line, color, and shape, Spann locates subjects from deeply personal spaces and articulates their essences on the painted surface, using metaphysical reflections to question our experiencing of the world around us.

      Spann uses painting to recreate encounters with people and places he finds compelling, gauging their essences when viewed through in retrospect. His experimentations with unconventional materials augments his explorations of personal and historical narratives. Spann lives and works in New Haven, Connecticut, where he also received his MFA from Yale University.

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Marked Man

signed, titled and dated "Vaughn Spann 2019 "MARKED MAN"" on the reverse
polymer paint and mixed media on panel
60 x 48 in. (152.4 x 121.9 cm)
Executed in 2019.

Full Cataloguing

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $152,400

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023