Mark Grotjahn - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, November 16, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
    Private Collection, London
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • 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 Untitled (Crimson Red and Canary Yellow Butterfly 45.93), 2015-2016, is a captivating display of his specific take on perspective and intense use of color. Since 1997, the artist has employed the butterfly motif to investigate Renaissance techniques of dual and multiple vanishing points.

    "The [Butterfly] paintings themselves are hard-edged spatial illusions in rich gradations of colour that appear to expand and contract...Grotjahn actually riffs from the whole range of abstraction: Malevich, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, Frank Stella, Brice Marden et al…Grotjahn is actively encoding references including pop psychedelic associations." (M. Henry in Abstract America: New Paintings & Sculpture at The Saatchi Gallery, exh. cat., The Saatchi Gallery, London, 2009-2010, p. 7)

    Standing before the vast alternating bands of Untitled (Crimson Red and Canary Yellow Butterfly 45.93) induces an almost hallucinogenic experience. The force of these meticulously rendered bands as they converge on a central vanishing point produces a dizzyingly physical experience, pushing the boundaries of the viewer’s perception. The dual vanishing points pulsate with convergent bands of color creating an optical illusion of psychedelic intensity. And the creamy delicacy of the colored pencil endows the work with an exquisite diversity of hue, texture and tone.

    Part of the artist's acclaimed Butterfly series, the radiating bands recall an insect's delicate, cantilevered wings and form the artist's most important body of work. “Grotjahn's abstractions are, in relation to traditional pictorial modes, a matter of having your cake and eating it too, of experiencing vertiginous spatial illusions only to be brought back to the level ground of modernist flatness-only then to have the picture plane once again yield to the probing eye," curator Robert Storr wrote in LA Push-Pull/Po-Mo-Stop-Go.

    The fractured geometry and handmade aesthetic make for a vibrating and visually active picture plane. Indeed, the brilliantly colored and lushly textured surface possesses an active, almost palpable, force. Grotjahn’s Butterfly drawings delicately coalesce color fields that straddle each longitudinal band, richly referencing nature and movement, art history and contemporary practice.


Untitled (Crimson Red and Canary Yellow Butterfly 45.93)

signed twice, titled and dated "MARK GROTJAHN 2016 m. Grotjahn UNTITLED (CRIMSON RED AND CANARY YELLOW BUTTERFLY 45.93)" on the reverse
colored pencil on paper
84 x 47 3/4 in. (213.4 x 121.3 cm.)
Executed in 2015-2016.

$600,000 - 800,000 

Sold for $1,450,000

Contact Specialist
Kate Bryan
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1267

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 5 PM EST