Mark Grotjahn - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, November 14, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

  • Catalogue Essay

    “… the ‘Butterflies’ 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. It’s personal without being overly personal.” Mark Grotjahn, 2007.

    For over two decades, Mark Grotjahn has explored the structures of geometric formalism and serial repetition to become one of the leading abstract painters working today. His trademark form consists of radiating lines converging on one or more vanishing points, which have come to be known as ‘butterflies.’ These iconic compositions of distorted, complicated angles and vivid, luminous colors focus on perspectival investigations.

    In the present lot, entitled Untitled (Three Butterfly Wings), a kaleidoscope of colors radiates from three focal points, creating a brilliant winged display of dazzling hues that pulsate as they expand across the page. The wing-like planes of color expand from the central axis of the work towards the edges of the piece, creating a visual dynamism reminiscent of Op Art and Russian Suprematism. The alternating bands of color, displaying every facet of the palette in which they are rendered as well as the fractured geometry, make for a vibrating and visually active picture plain. They create a mesmerizing optical illusion as they appear to both approach and recede at high-speed momentum. Interestingly, the highly controlled compositions and the meticulous details of each line are disturbed by whimsical markings and ambiguous smudges, which are undoubtedly traces of the artist’s working process. By adding the visible smudges and scribbles of the drawing process, Grotjahn integrates design precision with visceral spontaneity.

    A delicate balance of lines and colors, the drawing is a superb example of Grotjahn’s most virtuosic experiments with contemporary geometric abstraction. By using his signature butterfly motif and playing with eye-catching and vibrant color contrasts, he updates the rules of perspective. Each band painstakingly filled by the artist’s hand in colored pencil, Grotjahn’s image is delineated by the embossed traces of his program, imprinting his personal gestures within a symbol of perfection.


Untitled (Three Butterfly Wings)

colored pencil on Strathmore 400 Bristol paper
29 7/8 x 22 in. (75.9 x 55.9 cm)
Signed and dated 'M. GROTJAHN 04' on the reverse.

$250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for $293,000

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

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2014 11am