'The butterfly has become to Mark Grotjahn what the target is to Kenneth Noland, the zip was to Barnett Newman, and the colour white is to Robert Ryman...'
(M. N. Holte, 'Mark Grotjahn', in Artforum, November 2005, p. 259).
Standing before the vast alternating light and dark bands of Mark Grotjahn's Untitled (Black + Creamcicle) #686 induces an almost hallucinogenic experience. The visual intensity of these meticulously rendered bands as they converge on a central vanishing point produces a dizzyingly physical experience, which pushes the boundaries of our perception. Part of the artist's acclaimed Butterfly series, the radiating bands recall the insect's delicate, cantilevered wings and, as critic Robert Storr has written, form the artist's most important body of work, 'Grotjahn's abstractions are, in relation to traditional pictorial modes, a matter of having your cake and eating it too, of experiencing vertiginous spatial illusions only to be brought back to the level ground of modernist flatness-only then to have the picture plane once again yield to the probing eye' (R. Storr, 'LA Push-Pull/Po-Mo-Stop-Go' Mark Grotjahn, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, London, 2009, pp. 4-5).
To create these hypnotic drawings, Grotjahn follows an exacting process. He first begins by mapping out the triangular radii in black pencil. He then establishes the alternative palette by laying out a lighter coloured pencil over the black, working systematically, filling in his contours from left to right. In some places, the force of the artist's body is visible, with the segments evidencing a burnished sheen of weighty layers of coloured pencil. Using his own interpretation of the classical rule of perspective (Grotjahn's canvases often incorporate two vanishing points in close proximity) the artist intensely renders the surface of his works to leave a landscape of concentrated working. The intensity of the artist's working practice can be seen across the entire surface of this work, as Grotjahn artfully combines the aesthetics of abstraction with the emotional response of the viewer themselves. It draws on the influences of a variety of art historical traditions, from modernist abstraction to pop culture; Untitled (Black + Creamcicle) #686 taking its name from the American frozen iced lolly.