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  • Provenance

    Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mark Grotjahn rose to prominence as a painter, noted for his radiating compositions. Responding to a tradition of abstraction, he developed an idiosyncratic visual lexicon. Alongside this body of work sits another rather different practice: that of mask-making. Creating a series of engagingly makeshift visages, his first step was to work from cardboard boxes. To make later works, as the present lot, he employed a method of bronze casting that imbues the pieces with a reliquary aura.

    Reflecting on this methodology, the artist relates that he ‘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 in conversation with Marta Gnyp, Zoo Magazine, Issue 38, January 2013).

    In Untitled, the absence of the confessional is marked by the cross inscribed into the mask’s front. Much like the artist’s Faces paintings, it remains captivatingly mute. The piece does not only relate to the artist’s own work, but also obliquely to a cross – cultural tradition; as the artist himself notes, ‘I think my masks reference artists who reference primitivism. They’re not directly connected to tribal arts.’ (Mark Grotjahn in Jori Finkel, ‘Childlike, but Hardly Child’s Play’, New York Times, 7 May 2014). He channels Picasso more than Picasso's sources. There is much that is indirect about the present lot – herein lies its power. It resists straightforward contextualisation, appearing as a disembodied artefact. The private has been made public, but remains elusive and unknowable.


Untitled (Three Sided with X Out of Shell Standing Flat SF4.a)

bronze, ceramic shell on wooden plinth
bronze 83.5 x 62 x 18 cm (32 7/8 x 24 3/8 x 7 1/8 in.)
plinth 107 x 81.3 x 43 cm (42 1/8 x 32 x 16 7/8 in.)

Incised 'MGM' on the reverse.

£140,000 - 180,000 

Sold for £182,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm