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Untitled (White Butterfly MPG 03)
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About the object

Entrancing the viewer through an expanding spatial illusion of subtle monochromatic gradations, Untitled (White Butterfly MPG 03) belongs to Mark Grotjahns celebrated series of Butterfly Paintings. Iconic and instantly recognisable, these paintings today represent a short-hand for the artist's acclaimed contemporary practice. In a 2005 Artforum article Michael Ned Holte explained as much: "The butterfly has become to Mark Grotjahn what the target is to Kenneth Noland, the zip was to Barnett Newman, and the color white is to Robert Ryman. Grotjahn's abstracted geometric figure is suitably elusive. In fact, the more familiar it becomes, the more he refines its ability to surprise and, perhaps paradoxically, takes it further away from actual butterflyness" (Michael Ned Holte, Mark Grotjahn in: Artforum, November 2005, p. 259). With a central vanishing point in the body of the butterfly and streams of colour radiating out through the diagonal lines of its wings, Grotjahns Butterfly Painting summons natural world phenomena, while investigating the fundamental tenets of abstraction. The result is as aesthetically seductive as it is rigorously analytical and engages with a broad spectrum of non-objective art, from Constructivism and Futurism through to Minimalism and Op-art. Mark Grotjahns oeuvre grew out of conceptual sign making. Early in his career, he painstakingly reproduced quirky graphics and phrases from local storefronts. In turn, he would trade these handmade copies with the shop owners in exchange for the original signage, which Grotjahn then exhibited as his own. In 1998, Grotjahn displayed works from this Sign Replacement Project alongside a set of paintings inspired by Leon Battista Alberti's Renaissance treatise on one-point perspective. Grotjahn recalls: I was always interested in line and color. I wanted to find a motif that I could experiment with for a while. I did a group of drawings over a period of six to twelve months. The drawing that I chose was one that resembled the three-tier perspective, and that is what I went with (Arcy Douglass in conversation with Mark Grotjahn, Portland Art, 6 October 2010, online). Taking the initial concept one step further, Grotjahn tilted the axis ninety degrees, severing any ties to landscape painting that the horizontal orientation may have suggested. With the vertical body anchoring the centre of the composition and the vectors radiating like starbursts, Grotjahn discovered a graphic framework that has become his most sustained visual investigation.\nGrotjahns Butterfly Paintings operate within a tension between the ostensibly incongruous poles of abstraction and figuration, complicating the formal correlation between winged insects and a purely geometric organisation of shapes. Approaching the cerebral, illusionistic vortexes of 1960s Op artists such as Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, Mark Grotjahn graphically emphasises the vitality of abstract painting. As curator Douglas Fogle notes, Grotjahns butterflies hover precipitously close to the line between abstract geometry and illusionistic spatiality, displaying a kind of graphic unconscious that constitutes a paradoxically systematic disruption of a rational and orderly system (Douglas Fogle, In the Center of the Infinite in: Parkett 80, 2007, p. 117).\nIn Untitled (White Butterfly MPG 03), Grotjahn creates a parallel pictorial universe in which geometric abstraction and traditional Western representational painting collide. The monochrome radial bands possess a seductive inner force, an energy that draws the viewer into its kaleidoscopic hold and refuses to let go. Like Rothko's monumental abstract works from the 1950s and 1960s, this monochromatic painting holds both the viewer and the wall captive. Deliberating upon the compelling effects of Grotjahns Butterfly works Gary Garrels, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, explained: "the experience of looking at an abstract painting is distinct to the medium and form. It is a slow experience, apart from the relentless movement of contemporary life. It is an experience that remains remote for many because it is not like that which is more quotidian, more familiar... The recent paintings of Mark Grotjahn retain and renew the tradition and potential of abstract painting" (Gary Garrels, Within Blue, in: ibid., p. 127). Methodically choreographed, Untitled (White Butterfly MPG 03) encapsulates the full spectrum of Grotjahns meticulous acuity for spatial relationships and his ardent exploration into colour, form, and scale.\nSigned with the artist's initials and dated 03
GB
GB
GB

medium

Oil on linen

creator

Grotjahn, Mark

condition

Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly darker in the original. Condition: Please refer to the department for a professional condition report. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

152.4 by 127 cm. 60 by 50 in.

provenance

Blum & Poe, Los Angeles Private Collection Gladstone Gallery, New York Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011

signedDate

Signed with the artist's initials and dated 03

artist_range_end

1968

artist_range_start

1968

consignmentDesignation

Property from an Important Private American Collection

creator_nationality_dates

B. 1968


*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.

*Note that the price is not recalculated to the current value, but refers to the actual final price at the time the product was sold.


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