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One to Watch

May 31, 2006

Mark Grotjahn

Mark Grotjahn

Mark Grotjahn

Mark Grotjahn

Mark Grotjahn

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One indication of Los Angeles-based painter Mark Grotjahn's tremendous talent is his recent inclusion in the collections of both the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Celebrated for his Butterfly series — radiant explosions of color, which gamely toy with perspective — Grotjahn moves between divergent modalities of abstract painting with a deft agility.

At first glance, his recent work recalls the megalithic color-block canvases of Barnett Newman, but Grotjahn appropriates old-school Color Field painting for a numinous inquiry into the nature and limits of perception. The prismatic, slightly off-kilter two-point perspective Butterfly paintings funnel the viewer into a kaleidoscopic experience — yet the painter often purposely thwarts the illusion with his large, glaring signature. Grotjahn lays down his signature first before building up the rest of painting, giving his authorship an exaggerated, neo-romantic importance. This playful and philosophical approach to painting is apparent in Grotjahn's earlier work as well. He first attracted attention for studied copies of folksy shop signs, which he then exchanged for the originals.

Born in Pasadena in 1968, Grotjahn received his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley, and was an artist-in-residence at Skowhegan. His work was recently shown at MoMA, included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial, and featured in a solo show at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. While Grotjahn's reputation grows abroad, his work is rooted in Los Angeles — a city in which perception is integral to navigating a tenuous and flexible border between the real and unreal, truth and lies.


Mark Grotjahn's work will be included in the group show Dark Matter at White Cube in London from July 7 to September 9. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York will present a solo show later this year. He is represented by Anton Kern Gallery in New York, Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, and Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.

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