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  • Provenance

    Gagosian Gallery, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the past fifteen years, Mark Grotjahn’s distinctive hand has electrified our awareness of perspective, geometry, and spatial color relationships. Beginning his work in store-front design in Los Angeles, Grotjahn has taken the amateur notion of signmaking and compounded it with an art-historical discourse: his expanses of butterfly designs play with stoic notions of Renaissance-era perspective, creating multiple points on a single canvas. In addition, after Grotjahn adds vibrantly lush yet minimal color, we behold mesmerizing pieces that radiate from several independent centers. The butterfly is Grotjahn’s preferred trope, and, as such, he often invites comparison to modern masters who favor thematic projects, such as Robert Ryman or Barnett Newman. To a further extent, Grotjahn’s pictures rise above simple geometric provocation: “Mr. Grotjahn’s [pictures] emanate an otherworldly light. But his use of the butterfly form turns them into a cruciform structure, suggesting, in a literal versus metaphoric way, that God is present in the details”(B. Goodbody. “Art in Review; Mark Grotjahn—Blue Paintings, Light to Dark, One through Ten”, New York Times, February 16, 2007.

    In Untitled (Crimson Red and Canary Yellow Butterfly 798), 2009, Grotjahn’s signature butterfly pattern resists a single vanishing point. His bi-winged drawing, rendered painstakingly gorgeous in crimson red and canary yellow pencil, draws our eyes directly into its double center, where a central vertical line seems to bend and thicken as a result of illusion. The measured proximity of the Grotjahn’s design pulsates from its two central axes, yielding an infinity of glowing circles, almost as if a radiant sun were shining through our own. Yet, as we gaze intently at the gradually disappearing lines, we find that their vanishing points are elusive. Grotjahn’s piece is as much a perpetual search for the viewer as it is a wonderful display of dazzling color. He inspires us to both scrutinize and be transfixed by his art.



Untitled (Crimson Red and Canary Yellow Butterfly 798)

colored pencil on paper
86 x 47 3/4 in (218.4 x 121.3 cm)
Signed twice, titled, and dated “Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Crimson Red and Canary Yellow Butterfly 798), 2009” on the reverse.

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $458,500

Contemporary Art Part I

7 November 2011
New York