Mark Grotjahn - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 4, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    With its nearly monochromatic appearance and creamy hues, Untitled (White Butterfly Hawaiian Lapis) is uniquely expressive. The present lot hails from Mark Grotjahn’s venerable Butterfly Paintings series, renowned for their visual antinomies which transcend a singular approach to painting. Recalling the Hard Edge Abstraction of the mid-twentieth century, Grotjahn retains both traditional purity and symmetry within his works, while championing the irregularities produced during his creation process. With unbounded flair, Grotjahn breaches the precision of his forms with abrasive spattering’s of paint, discordant perspective and jarring pictorial depth.

    Untitled’s painterly lines appear to both protrude from and vanish within the picture plane, in a captivating play of optical effects, achieved through geometric interplay. The mesmerizing depth these illusions breathe into the work absorbs the viewer’s gaze drawing us across the picture’s smooth surface texture emphasising the subtle and delicate palette. The explosion of diagonal lines, radiating like starbursts, takes its departure from a central spine-like axis, which divides the painting into two parts, resembling a butterfly’s wings. The resulting sense of tension between each of these wings appears to dynamically push against each other creating motion and energy within the work. The effect of this is both unsettling and awesome. ‘The eye is always searching for an implicit point of stability that cannot be found,’ explains Barry Schwabsky, ‘And that’s what stops you in your tracks – what provokes the stroboscopic stasis of fascination. The paintings announce themselves with a powerful physical and optical presence, but still more powerful is this something else that can’t quite be seen, can’t quite be felt, though one can’t help but sense it is there.’ (Barry Schwabsky, “Vehicles of Fascination,” in exh. cat., Mark Grotjahn, Aspen, Aspen Art Museum, 2012, p.62).

    This inexplicable presence within Grotjahn’s work is indicative of emotive painting at its best; expressing an elusive ‘other,’ some ineffable quality or being that conventional language lacks the vocabulary to adequately describe. It is the result of Grotjahn’s discerning post-modernist analysis, weaving together the most vibrant and engaging strands of art history within a singular prismatic vision. As Robert Storr explains, ‘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 like the panel of a screen thrown out of kilter by a groping hand' (R. Storr,'La Push-Pull/Po-Mo-Stop-Go', Mark Grotjahn, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, London 2009, pp. 4-5). Indeed, Untitled (White Butterfly Hawaiian Lapis) encapsulates Grotjahn’s devotion to perspective through his unique aesthetic, building a sensory experience full of raw energy, weightlessness and luminosity.


Untitled (White Butterfly Hawaiian Lapis)

titled, signed and dated '"Untitled (White Butterfly Hawaiian Lapis)" M. GROTJAHN 01' on the overlap; further signed and dated twice 'M. GROTJAHN 01' and 'MARK GROTJAHN 2001' on the reverse
oil on linen
70.5 x 70.5 cm (27 3/4 x 27 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2001.

£1,000,000 - 1,500,000 

Sold for £1,265,000

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Henry Highley
Head of Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 5 October 2016