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How you like it daddy...

How you like it daddy...
signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 'How you like it daddy...2004 MB' (on the reverse)
mixed media collage on canvas
84 x 120in. (213.4 x 304.8cm.)
Executed in 2004
Sikkema Jenkins & Co, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004.
Puerto Rico, Espacio 1414, Notes on Abstraction: A selection of recent abstract works from the Berezdivin Collection, 2008.
Columbus, Wexner Center for the Arts, Mark Bradford, 2010-2012, p. 227, no. 11 (illustrated in colour, p. 143). This exhibition later travelled to Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art; Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art and San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,
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Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Spanning more than three metres in width, How you like it daddy… (2004) is a majestic example of Mark Bradford’s unique abstract language. By using materials taken directly from his South Central L.A. locale, Bradford aims for what he has called ‘social abstraction’ in his works, which often resemble maps or geological terrains. How you like it daddy… is physically built from and embedded with the visual vernaculars of urban experience. Its surface consists of found media including posters, billboard advertisements and flyers, laid down in multiple layers before being spattered with bleach. Bradford has incised and peeled back the largely black topmost layer in dozens of horizontal strips, which are accented by thick streaks of white paint. These apertures create a widescreen shuttering effect, cutting through the bleach’s corrosive, tan-coloured splashes and drips: they reveal firework glows of pink, yellow and orange paper below, as well as flashes of printed text and image. The resulting object is vivid, complex and monumental, its textures strobing with sensation and its palette recalling a dark, neon-lit cityscape. It even captures something of the aural environment of its making: the title is lifted from the hook of Petey Pablo’s single ‘Freek-A-Leek’, which ruled the airwaves in the summer of 2004. Held in the same private collection since that year, from 2010 to 2012 How you like it daddy… was prominently included in Bradford’s seminal first survey exhibition, which travelled from the Wexner Center for The Arts, Columbus, to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, The Dallas Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

While the vast scale and chromatic splendour of Bradford’s works has often seen him compared to the Abstract Expressionists—in 2017, the Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum staged a spectacular joint show of his works alongside Still’s—he is not in search of the sublime, otherworldly power that motivated many of those painters. His art is firmly rooted in the social, commercial and material economies of the South Central neighbourhood where he was born, and where he continues to live and work today. ‘As a twenty-first-century African American artist,’ he explains, ‘when I look back at Abstract Expressionism, I get the politics, I get the problems, I get the theories … 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 2017, p. 46).

Bradford worked in his mother’s hair salon from a young age: his employment as a ‘beauty operator’ overlapped with his artistic career, and he often integrated bobby pins, hair dye and endpapers from the perming process into his works. The gridlike assembly of singed, translucent endpapers in the early masterpiece Daddy, Daddy, Daddy (2001, Guggenheim Collection) touches on this personal narrative while also evoking the pervasive, accumulative pressure of a societal beauty regime. The bleach that rains across How you like it daddy… might similarly be seen to echo the chemicals used in hair-straightening and skin-lightening, inflecting its painterly grandeur with a touch of caustic menace. No Pollock-esque gestural outpouring, Bradford’s drips form part of the artist’s abstracted view of his city and community, fusing with the work’s physical strata in a vision of formal, material and conceptual synthesis.

‘I do not like conversations about Winsor & Newton and surface and transparency and luminosity and glazing’, Bradford has said. ‘No. I’m like: go find it. It has to exist somewhere out there; go find it. What painters fetishise—surface and translucence—I learned all about that through architecture and the sides of buildings. I understand transparency because of the erosion of paper’ (M. Bradford, quoted in C. S. Eliel, ‘Dynamisms and Quiet Whispers: Conversations with Mark Bradford’, Mark Bradford, exh. cat. Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio 2010, p. 63). In this sense, he has much in common with the Affichistes of postwar Paris and Rome, who used weathered, torn palimpsests of street posters to vivid aesthetic effect. These flâneurs understood their found surfaces as inscribed with the life of the city, as well as rich in beauty: their use of real-world matter anticipated aspects of Pop art and the Arte Povera movement that swept 1960s Italy, strains of which can both be felt in Bradford’s practice. His compounding of paint and collage also reflects the legacy of Jasper Johns, who fused textural and semiotic complexity in his radical ‘flag’ paintings. The unprecedented material depth, compositional command and personal purpose of Bradford’s work brings these ideas to eloquent new territory. Retooling the visual forces that structure and stratify contemporary urban life, How you like it daddy… takes a transcendent place among the most heroic canvases of American art. Far from making an escape from the world, abstraction, in Bradford’s hands, brings us viscerally close to reality.

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