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b. 1968, USA

Mark Grotjahn Biography

Mark Grotjahn is a contemporary American artist known best for his gestural and geometric paintings, drawings, and sculptures that combine abstract and figurative elements.

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Grotjahn graduated with a BFA from the University of Colorado Boulder and went on to receive his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley in the 1990s. While studying for his MFA, he began his first major series of artworks, titled 'Sign Exchange' (1993–1998), in which he faithfully painted local store signs in Los Angeles. He would arrange with the relevant store-owners to swap his paintings for the original signs, thereby creating a twist in which the painting was displayed in the shop-front while the actual sign was available for exhibition.

During the late 1990s, Grotjahn began working on a series of densely worked coloured-pencil drawings, and later oil paintings, that investigated perspective and vanishing points. Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective) (1997), for example, is a coloured-pencil drawing that depicts two stacks of horizontal bands, with elongated triangles that recede into a vanishing point above and below. To create works like this, the artist devised a system that was driven by both chance and rules; he would first map out a triangular radius in black pencil, then complete the work with a pencil selected at random from a pre-chosen set of colours.

Grotjahn's methodical approach fed 'Butterfly' (2001–2008), his next significant series of paintings. The series—exhibited in shows at institutions such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (2005) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2018)—comprises geometric coloured-pencil drawings and oil paintings. A typical 'Butterfly' artwork features a vertical line with a vanishing point on either side, from which triangular bands of colour radiate. The colour scheme and the number of perspectives vary, ranging from the two-perspective, monochromatic Untitled (Green Butterfly) (2002) to the multi-coloured, multi-perspectival Untitled (large coloured butterfly white background 10 wings) (2004).

In 2003, Grotjahn began 'Face', a series that continued his interest in perspective while incorporating an investigation of form and symmetry. 'Face' consists of paintings that each appear to depict the geometrical structures of the face: almond-shaped eyes, elongated noses, round nostrils, and mouths. They are executed by applying and building up energetic strokes of paint upon cardboard, which in turn is mounted on canvas. Around this time, the artist also began making masks from salvaged cardboard boxes, attaching paper tubes and other appendages to evoke human features. In 2010, he began casting his 'Masks' in bronze and painting over them in thick impasto. In 2014 the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas presented the first museum exhibition of these sculptures.

Grotjahn continues to explore mark-making and abstraction in his interconnected series 'New Capri', 'Capri', and 'Free Capri'. Compared to his 'Face' paintings, these more recent bodies adopt a more experimental and spontaneous approach, using the paintbrush and palette knife to create marks evocative of Abstract Expressionist paintings. 'New Capri' (2016–ongoing) includes small-scale paintings on cardboard framed behind glass, while in 'Capri' (2016–ongoing) horizontal and vertical lines intersect one another on canvas. In 'Free Capri' (2018–ongoing), a grid of tally marks overlaps with underlying vibrant and expressive lines.

Ocula | 2019

Exhibition view: Mark Grotjahn, Horizontals, Gagosian, Hong Kong (18 May–7 August 2021). Artworks © Mark Grotjahn. Courtesy Gagosian.

Mark Grotjahn Featured Artworks

Untitled (Capri 53.88) by Mark Grotjahn contemporary artwork
Mark GrotjahnUntitled (Capri 53.88), 2021Oil on cardboard mounted on linen
139.7 x 172.7 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Untitled (Capri 53.77) by Mark Grotjahn contemporary artwork
Mark GrotjahnUntitled (Capri 53.77), 2020Oil on cardboard mounted on linen
127 x 160 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Untitled (Indian #9 Face 45.54) by Mark Grotjahn contemporary artwork
Mark GrotjahnUntitled (Indian #9 Face 45.54), 2015Oil on cardboard mounted on linen
128.27 x 102.87 cm
Blum & Poe
Untitled (Indian #4 Face 45.49) by Mark Grotjahn contemporary artwork
Mark GrotjahnUntitled (Indian #4 Face 45.49), 2014Oil on cardboard mounted on linen
128.27 x 102.55 cm
Blum & Poe

Mark Grotjahn Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Mark Grotjahn Represented By

Blum & Poe contemporary art gallery in Tokyo, Japan Blum & Poe Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo
Gagosian contemporary art gallery in 980 Madison Avenue, New York, USA Gagosian New York, Athens, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Le Bourget, Geneva, Basel, Rome, Hong Kong

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