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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

  • Literature

    J. Trainor, “Rates of Exchange,” Frieze, October 2003, p. 117 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Los Angeles based artist Mark Grotjahn’s celebrated butterfly paintings are powerful, dynamic and complex. Derived from the artist’s fascination with signs and retro-graphics, the butterfly paintings are focused perspectival investigations into dual and multiple vanishing points, techniques used since the Renaissance to create an illusion of depth and volume on a twodimensional surface. In Untitled (Orange Butterfly), nature and culture merge into a luminous blend of coolly sleek design and fiery emotive expression, characterized by the powerfully radiating sequences of parallel lines executed in thick red-orange impasto in such a way that the illusion of perspective is generated by the butterfly form. Grotjahn further pushes the boundaries of transforming nature into conceptual abstraction through his purposefully asymmetrical bands stemming from mismatched vanishing points.The off-kilter quality demonstrated in the stretching and receding lines and forms, each creating a separate deception of space, convolutes and disorients the viewer’s sense of linear perspective, and forces a more serious feat of uneasy concentration.This dramatic perspectival tension, coupled with the intentionally steady build-up of opaque layers and heavily textured paint is Grotjahn’s contemporary assimilation and interpretation of major artistic influences such as Barnett Newman and his monumental stripes, Kenneth Noland’s lollipop palette and Alfred Jensen’s geometrically compartmentalized painterliness.The result yields an elegant reconstruction of abstraction on a fundamentally human scale.
    The butterfly paintings represent an organically evolving motif in the artist’s oeuvre, highly formalized experimentations in the possibilities afforded by the almost monochromatic two dimensional picture plane highlighted by exercises in frontality versus linear perspective. These compositions of intricate, skewed angles and radiant, tonal color allude to the multiple narratives coursing through the history of modernist painting, from the utopian vision of Russian Constructivism to the hallucinatory images of Op Art. It is precisely for this reason that the artist’s signature imagery, sublimely sensory, resonates so powerfully. In Grotjahn’s paintings, particularly the present lot, we find our perception transformed by pure optical sensation into motive power, quiet seductiveness, and highly emotional energy.


Untitled (Orange Butterfly)

Oil on linen.
36 x 27 in. (91 x 69 cm).
Signed and dated “M. Grotjahn 2002” on the overlap.

$450,000 - 650,000 

Sold for $458,500

Contemporary Art Part I

13 Nov 2008, 7pm
New York