Mark Grotjahn - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Anton Kern Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Free Standing Large Garden Sculpture Mask M24.g) creates a captivating visual paradox that plays the weighted solemnity of bronze against a rough expressivity, resulting in an idiosyncratic sense of monumentality. Within Grotjahn’s abstract oeuvre that encompasses his Butterfly and Face paintings, the present work is emblematic of the artist’s sculptural concerns. As part of Grotjahn’s equally iconic yet far rarer series of Mask bronzes, this work puts forth a unique conceptual standpoint that bridges the artist’s two key painted series. Borne out of a need for expressive release from the mathematic strictures of the Butterfly works, these sculptures foreshadow the anthropomorphized abstractions and references to Cubism that underpin the Face paintings. Liberated from any schematism of Grotjahn’s painting practice however, Untitled (Free Standing Large Garden Sculpture Mask M24.g) provides unfettered access to the raw aesthetic urge of the artist in its most primal and tactile state. Other iterations of the bronze Mask series are housed the Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Broad Museum, Los Angeles, and Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas.

    Amalgamating varied references from Abstract Expressionism to Op art and even Pop Art, Grotjahn astutely explores the phenomenological line between abstraction and representation. The artist has remarked: “I called some paintings perspectives but I’m not interested in perspective; I called some butterflies but I don’t think they are butterflies; I call my sculptures masks but they are not masks” (Mark Grotjahn, quoted in Marta Gnyp, “Mark Grotjahn”, Zoo Magazine, no. 38, January 2001, online). With the mask sculptures we see references to Cubism's experimentation with the representation of space, figure and form. The semblance of a face is conjured through a primal manipulation of the sculptural body: punctured eyes, a long appendage for a nose and a lightly engraved mouth.

    Evoking the naive mysticism of Paul Klee, the Masks stem from an essential, and deeply personal, aesthetic urge. Seeking an escape from the meticulously regulated construction of perspective when working on the Butterfly paintings, Grotjahn began making playful masks from the cardboard waste of supply boxes and beer cartons around his studio. Cutting and scratching into the surface, he would apply toilet rolls to create absurd nasal forms, all as a way of unwinding and finding pleasure in the art of construction. The cardboard masks offered him a chance to “get dirty and messy, to be expressive in a different way” (Mark Grotjahn, quoted in Jori Finkel, “Mark Grotjahn’s New Work”, The New York Times, May 7, 2014, online). Here the dents, tears and perforation of cardboard provide a visual map of the artist’s creative mind – the fusion of the psychological and the physical, and an insight into a self-affirming vision intended only for his own gaze. As the artist recounts, “I kept them private for 13, 14 years. I gave them away to friends or occasionally traded one. At a certain moment, I wanted to do a show with them. When you cast them in bronze they become different. In a way, I depersonalized them; they feel less as a diary and are more an armature for a painting” (Mark Grotjahn, quoted in Marta Gnyp, “Mark Grotjahn”, Zoo Magazine, no. 38, January 2001, online)

    Grotjahn began casting the masks in bronze in 2010, subsequently transforming the ephemeral musings into objects of classical permanence. As in the present work, Grotjahn would retain elements of the lost-mold casting method. He leaves the channels that transport the molten metal into the slip and privileges them for their own formal integrity. As such, he destabilizes the inherent monumentality of bronze with a stilled reference to its moment of becoming. Equally inspired by contemporaries Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy, Grotjahn also notes a certain whimsical note to the series, “There’s obviously a lot of phallic humor and toilet humor” (Mark Grotjahn, quoted in Jori Finkel, “Mark Grotjahn’s New Work”, The New York Times, May 7 2014, online). Inhabiting a peculiar space between a clown-like portrait and ceremonial statue that concretizes the legacy of modernist abstraction, in Untitled (Free Standing Large Garden Sculpture Mask M24.g) Grotjahn makes a truly irreverent addition to the canon of bronze sculpture.

To be sold with no reserve


Lot offered with No Reserve

Untitled (Free Standing Large Garden Sculpture Mask M24.g)

incised with artist’s initials "m.g." on the base
bronze with gold patina
109 1/2 x 41 x 51 in. (278.1 x 104.1 x 129.5 cm.)
Executed in 2014, this work is a unique variant.

$500,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $519,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018