Mark Grotjahn - Contemporary Art Part I New York Wednesday, May 13, 2009 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Santa Monica

  • Literature

    Royal Academy Publications, ed., USA Today, London, 2006, p. 157 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    While at first glance Grotjahn’s oeuvre seems bound to purely aesthetic issues in modernist discourse, references to nature and movement are plentiful. His butterfly motif, one of several recurring connections to the natural world, along with flowers and water, has yielded extensive possibilities in both drawing and painting. Resembling abstract butterfly wings, the works call to mind the butterfly effect, introduced by a mathematician and meteorologist in the 1960s, and maintains that the subtlest movement of a butterfly’s wings could eventually cause a tornado to appear—a ready analogy, perhaps, to Grotjahn’s quietly provocative experiments within the history of abstraction. (Press release from Dancing Black Butterflies, Gagosian Gallery, NewYork, 2008)
    The present lot exemplifies how Mark Grotjahn gracefully merges the Renaissance convention of perspectivalism with contemporary nature and culture to build a sensory world full of raw energy, weightlessness and luminosity. The butterfly series, born out of the artist’s three tiered perspective paintings turned on their sides, forcibly warped the experience of observation and rendered a wholly unique pictorial plane. Characterized by radiating angular patterns stemming from a spine-like vertical axis, butterfly paintings such as Untitled (White Butterfly Blue MG), 2001, hold the viewer captive and force one to absorb the rich surfaces, thick layers of impasto and dizzying bands irregularly situated within the canvas to create a distorting vision that flirts with the eye and tricks the mind. Grotjahn’s complex and highly stylized imaginative gestures in the butterfly paintings successfully straddle the polarities of artifice and nature and elegantly harness the mysticism of nature through aesthetic formality.


Untitled (White Butterfly, Blue MG)


Oil on canvas.

72 x 26 in. (183 x 66 cm).

Initialed “M” lower left and “G” lower right.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $386,500

Contemporary Art Part I

14 May 2009, 7pm
New York