Mark Grotjahn (b. 1968)
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION 
Mark Grotjahn (b. 1968)

Untitled (Full Colored Butterfly)

Details
Mark Grotjahn (b. 1968)
Untitled (Full Colored Butterfly)
signed twice, titled, numbered, and dated '#622 Untitled (FULL COLORED BUTTERFLY) 2006 m. Grotjahn MARK GROTJAHN' (on the reverse)
colored pencil on paper
47 7/8 in. x 41¾ in. (121.6 x 106 cm.)
Drawn in 2006.
Provenance
Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
Kunstmuseum Thun, Mark Grotjahn, September-November 2007, pp. 37 and 65 (illustrated in color).

Brought to you by

Eliza Netter
Eliza Netter

Lot Essay

A rainbow of thick chocolate, crimson, forest green, and soft powder and navy-blue stripes seem to quiver and reel in Mark Grotjahn's Untitled (Full Colored Butterfly), converging on a central vanishing point to initiate a nearly dizzying, physical viewing experience. Full Color Butterfly is part of the artist's most acclaimed Butterfly series, examples of which are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Indeed, as Michael Ned Holte states, "The butterfly has become to Mark Grotjahn what the target is to Kenneth Noland, the zip was to Barnett Newman, and the color white is to Robert Ryman..."( Mark Grotjahn," Artforum, November 2005, p. 259).

The skewed angles and plucky colors of Grotjahn's Butterfly works knowingly allude to geometric abstraction's numerous art histories, including the utopian vision of Russian Constructivism, the reductive strategies of minimalism and the hallucinatory images of Op Art. As Robert Storr has aptly stated, "Grotjahn is not an artist obsessed with positing a wholly unprecedented 'concept' of art, but rather is concerned with teasing nuanced experience out of existing concepts or constructs according to the opportunities presented by a specific, well-calculated conceit. Nor is he really preoccupied with Ezra Pound's mandate to 'make it new;' rather he wants to make it vivid, and applies all of his impressive skill to doing just that" (R. Storr, "LA Push-Pull/Po-Mo-Stop-Go," Mark Grotjahn, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2009, p. 6)

To create these radiant, prismatic drawings, Grotjahn follows a specific and exacting process. He first begins by mapping out the triangular radii in pencil. He then establishes the alternative palette by laying out a colored pencil over the initial layout, working systematically, and filling in his contours from left to right. A central vertical line divides the sheet in half, the triangular vectors or wings splaying outward from this point. The left and right wings do not meet in the middle; instead the composition is always asymmetrical. Within these highly controlled compositions, the heft of the artist's body is occasionally visible with the segments evidencing a burnished sheen of weighty layers of colored pencil; his landscape of concentrated working artfully combines the aesthetics of abstraction with the emotional response of the viewer. While at first glance the Butterfly's aesthetic seems entrenched in hard-edge modernist discourse, it's exquisitely and meticulously rendered radiating bands-- which recall the insect's delicate, cantilevered wings-seem to flutter nearly organically. As Storr describes, this singular fusion of past and present--organic and abstract--is why the Butterfly series forms 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). Speaking to the myriad complexities and references that can be plucked from the depths of the Butterflies, Douglas Fogle states: "The butterflies, whose bodies are the vanishing points ofmultiple perspectival systems, literally move across the paper with an almost cinematic dynamismWith a scaffolding of vertical stabilizers defining their spatiality, they bring to mind fractal geometries of perhaps the seminal film title sequences of the legendary designer Saul Bass. I am reminded in particular of Bass's opening titles to Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest where an abstract grid of lines crosses the screen only to eventually form the contours of the modernist glass faade that defines the opening shot of the film. As with these film titles, Grotjahn's butterflies hover precipitously close to this line between abstract geometry and illusionistic spatiality, displaying a kind of graphic unconscious that constitutes a paradoxically systematic disruption of a rational and orderly system. ("In the Center of the Infinite," Parkett no. 80, 2007, pp. 8-9).
;

More from Post-War and Contemporary Afternoon Session

View All
View All