Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
Lambert Art Collection, Geneva (acquired from the above in 2010)
Sale: Christie's, London, A Visual Odyssey Selections from LAC (Lambert Art Collection) Staged by Jacques Grange, 14 October 2015, Lot 37
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Good morning, daddy!
Ain't you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred?
Excerpt from Langston Hughes, "Dream Boogie", Montage of a Dream Deferred, 1951
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mark Bradford came to art relatively late, enrolling at the California Institute of Art in 1991 when he was already thirty years old. His rise to international prominence since then, however, has proved unusually swift, and his distinctive signature style has won him international acclaim and plaudits in recent years: in 2013 he was elected as a National Academician by the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York, and in 2014 he was awarded the US Department of State's Medal of Arts. His list of solo exhibitions is now extensive, and his work currently hangs to universal commendation in the United States Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, making him one of the most sought after artists in the Contemporary scene.
Having been in the prestigious collection of Baroness Marion Lambert in Switzerland, Dream Deferral of 2009 exhibits the intricacies of Bradford's practice, in which we see him as a painter of modern life, who captures the mood and energy of our ever-changing world. His work is not representational, but instead employs the detritus which litters our environment to create large scale abstracts which combine the techniques of collage and décollage, and which vividly portray a sense of the artist's own life experience and beliefs. The artist himself describes his work as abstraction, but abstraction "with a social or political context clinging to the edges" (the artist in: Calvin Tomkins, 'What Else Can Art Do', www.newyorker.com, 22 June 2015).
In its complex surface, a scavenged assemblage of ripped and torn paper stuck onto a canvas and then later reworked, sanded, gouged, painted and torn again, we discover the endless flux of the built-up environment, or at least an abstract impression of it. This is a messy landscape, an imaginary, impossible map created from all sorts of unexpected materials such as newspaper scraps, hairdressing endpapers, billboard posters, advertising flyers. It may not be representational, but this canvas nevertheless encompasses an urban intensity, with splashes of colour swept along in a wave of glittering silver. The title of this canvas references the poetry of Langston Hughes (1902-1967), one of the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance whose work conveyed the life and noise of early Twentieth Century New York City, and whose writings opened up new avenues in American literature. Hughes' Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951) focuses on his neighbourhood of Harlem, and his poems both celebrate the energy and culture of the area whilst commiserating with the struggles and plight facing its largely African American population. Bradford's kinship with Hughes is profound, particularly in his works, including the present work, that capture his life in Los Angeles through abstract yet topographic landscapes. Connecting to the ominous presence of 'deferred dreams' that Hughes memorialized in his poems, Bradford has not been shy to discuss the challenges he faced as an African American growing up in a largely white neighbourhood, and as a gay man coming of age during the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic.
Today, after experiencing such profound success, Bradford continues to tackle these topics, notably in his current pavilion in Venice where he is representing the United States, but also more subtly in the materials used to make his now iconic canvases. Advertisements for products claiming to assist the buyer in achieving their 'deferred dreams', but in reality prey on the underserved populations of his hometown making these dreams all the more difficult to achieve, are frequently found in the layers of these beautiful, glimmering, canvases.
Dream Deferral, then, sees Bradford capturing Los Angeles through his intensely individual iconography. Yet as a paean to Hughes, a fellow observer and celebrant of urban life, the work has a sense of timelessness. Just as Hughes' poems sang of 1950s New York, so Dream Deferral sings of the vibrancy of Twenty First Century Los Angeles, that great melting pot of colours, cultures, and communities.
Mixed media collage with metallic elements on canvas
Signed with the artist's initials, titled and dated 2009 on the reverse
122.2 by 152.2 cm. 48 1/8 by 60 in.