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MARK BRADFORD (B. 1961)
MARK BRADFORD (B. 1961)
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Property from a Distinguished European Collection
MARK BRADFORD (B. 1961)

Amendment #1

Details
MARK BRADFORD (B. 1961)
Amendment #1
signed, titled and dated 'Amendment 1 2013 Mark Bradford' (on the reverse)
mixed media on canvas
48 x 60 in. (122 x 152.5 cm.)
Executed in 2013.
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 2013
Sale Room Notice
Please note that this work was acquired directly from the artist in 2013.

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Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist

Lot essay

I may pull the 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 the 1950s abstraction. The painting practice will always be a painting practice but we’re living in a post-studio world, and this has to do with the relationship with things that are going on outside.”

Mark Bradford

Propelled into the public sphere by his inclusion in Thelma Golden’s now-storied 2001 exhibition Freestyle, Mark Bradford’s astute eye for political structures and material history has continuously proven him one of the most vital artists working today. His inimitable approach to painting marries popular culture and textual inquiry with a legacy of abstraction that carves a distinct path all its own. “I may pull the 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 the 1950s abstraction. The painting practice will always be a painting practice but we’re living in a post-studio world, and this has to do with the relationship with things that are going on outside" (M. Bradford, in conversation with S. May, in: Through Darkest America by Truck and Tank, exh. cat., London, White Cube, 2013-14, p. 83).


The artist pulls visually and physically from his surroundings, creating multilayered collages of cut, torn, faded, and otherwise decimated paper strewn with wire, string, and other salvaged materials from around his studio in Los Angeles. Instilling these constructions with conceptual rigor through the use of charged phrases and his own personal ideas about mapping environs, Bradford speaks to a new generation of artists and viewers who are all too aware of the interconnected nature of art, politics, and everyday life.

One is immediately cognizant of the existence of text in Amendment #1, but reading it is another matter. Working to incise words and marks into his accumulation of colorful layers of detritus, Bradford teases the viewer by obfuscating much of the text. However, through a careful process of sanding and arranging, enough of the phrase is made visible that it piques our interest and pulls us in. Evenly spaced and spread across the entire face of the monumental canvas, white letters form words amidst a barrage of red, yellow, and black layers which undulate and explode throughout the composition. An upward arc of yellow crests toward the top of the work while various intrusions of myriad colors spatter the surface. The entire piece gives the impression of a distressed billboard or a wall of posters and flyers that has been layered continuously for years only to be battered and buffeted by the elements. This connection is intentional as Bradford draws from the urban collages found on the walls, façades, and signposts in his California neighborhood. The idea of the palimpsest, the reading of one text through another, is key to reading works like Amendment #1 as a common phrase is filtered through a hyperlocal amalgamation of materials and the artist’s own formative incursions.

Amendment #1 is the first in a series of ten that take the Bill of Rights as their subject. Spelling out the unalienable rights of Americans as they relate to governmental power, these first ten amendments to the constitution form the backbone of democracy in the United States. In Bradford’s composition, the text reads “Amendment 1 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Through his equally additive and destructive processes, the artist obscures arguably the most important rights of the people, and also the most tested in times of censorship, those of freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. Though the laws are made to protect and uplift the populace, Bradford’s presentation suggests that the once clear-cut words have been twisted and tarnished over the years.

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.”

Mark Bradford

Inspired by twentieth century American artists who broke new ground in Modernist painting, Bradford expands on this legacy through a combination of conceptual assemblage and frantic energy. “As a twenty-first-century African American artist,” he says, “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. I just find that chilling and amazing” (M. Bradford, “Clyfford Still’s Paintings,” in The Artist Project: What Artists See When They Look at Art, New York, Phaidon, 2017, p. 46).

Pulling from the living fabric of a neighborhood, a culture, or his own life, Bradford is able to incorporate a socially-charged nuance into his work that goes beyond machismo or material specificity. By harnessing the power and grandeur of the Abstract Expressionist visual vocabulary and using it to examine societal issues, works like Amendment #1 surround and envelope the viewer in an effort to fully immerse them in the artist’s process and force a reexamination of a common phrase.


Lot Essay Header Image: Present lot illustrated (detail).

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