Mark Grotjahn - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 14, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

  • Catalogue Essay

    “The sense that everything’s possible, for me, that’s kind of a given. I don’t feel restricted, or I don’t want to feel restricted, by any rules.” Mark Grotjahn, 2007

    Mark Grotjahn’s iconic series of Butterfly drawings stands as the most widely recognized achievement of his career. Through its kaleidoscopic canary surface, the present lot Untitled (Blonde Butterfly 804), 2009 is emblematic of the artist’s exceptional works on paper. “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.”(M. Ned Holte, “Mark Grotjahn,” Artforum, November 2005, p. 259) Grotjahn’s active investigation into the illusionistic and perspectival aspects of drawing brought about the Butterfly drawings series. The butterflies’ elongated bodies stand as the central, vertical anchor for all of the compositions, while the radiating colorful lines fan out as the fluttering wings. The insect acts as the perfect form for Grotjahn, marrying color, line and geometry in a perfect and dazzling union. The artist’s exploration into one point perspective harkens back to the mathematical studies of Renaissance artists who delicately realized depth upon a one-dimensional field. “Grotjahn’s butterflies hover precipitously close to the line between abstract geometry and illusionist spatiality, displaying a kind of graphic unconscious that constitutes a paradoxically systematic disruption of a rational and orderly system.” (D. Fogle, “In the Center of the Infinite” in Parkett 80, 2007, p. 117)

    Untitled (Blonde Butterfly 804), 2009, rendered in a creamy yellow, displays a delicate balance of line, color and form. The pale tones of each wing vary slightly, further emphasizing the precise formulation of the composition. The yellow centerline, or body of the butterfly, is the pillar of the whole structure; all lines converge to this axis and then vanish. As the composition is hand drawn by Grotjahn, slight smudges and speckles of stray color can be seen around the edges of the picture plane, as though they are orbiting around the central axis. The entire scene is one of optically, enticing fascination, meditating between the deliberate and the spontaneous. As Grotjahn explains, “the ‘Butterfies’ are fairly planned out. They’re still intuitive, but I generally know where they’re going. It’s a different kind of freedom, a different kind of expressionism.” (Mark Grotjahn in J. Tumlir, “Mark Grotjahn Big Nose Baby and The Moose,” Flash Art, January – February, 2007, p. 84)


Untitled (Blonde Butterfly 804)

colored pencil on paper
47 3/4 x 38 in. (121.3 x 96.5 cm)
Signed, titled and dated "Mark Grotjahn 2009 Untitled (Blonde Butterfly 804)" on the reverse.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $455,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm