Mark Grotjahn is a contemporary American artist known best for his gestural and geometric paintings, drawings, and sculptures that combine abstract and figurative elements.Read More
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
Featuring multiple works by 17 artists in different media – from soap and wax to ink and synthetic polymer, and good old fashioned oil on canvas – The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, curated by Laura Hoptman, staked its premise not upon the varied matter of materials, but the fungibility of temporal allusion. Purporting...