Because I have an active and obsessive eye‚ I’m interested in finding as much contentment as I possibly can. In my work I create problems and then solve them in order to feel peace.
Mark Grotjahn combines gesture and geometry with abstraction and figuration in visually dynamic paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Each of his series reflects a range of art-historical influences and unfolds in almost obsessive permutations.
Grotjahn was born in Pasadena, California. He received a BFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an MFA from the University of California at Berkeley. While studying in California, he began his first major project, Sign Exchange (1993–98), in which he painted replicas of signs that he saw in stores around Los Angeles, then had the store owners display his hand-painted versions in place of the originals. In 1995 Grotjahn was an artist-in-residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Madison, Maine. He moved to Los Angeles a year later and, with his classmate Brent Petersen, opened the short-lived gallery Room 702.
In 2001 Grotjahn began the Butterfly series. These geometric paintings and drawings explore the constructs of dual and multi-point perspective and take on various forms as Grotjahn alters their composition and color. A selection of multicolored and monochromatic Butterfly works on paper were exhibited in 2005 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. In 2018 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presented 50 Kitchens (2013–18), from the same series, a work with more than fifty parts that all evolved from a single composition and incorporate residual traces of earlier drawings. Continuing his investigations of symmetry, perspective, and form, Grotjahn began the Face paintings in 2003. These expressive, anthropomorphic works of cardboard on canvas often feature sections cut away to reveal painted canvas beneath. As the series progresses, the faces become less apparent and more abstract, their curved lines creating void-like apertures.
Alongside his painting practice, Grotjahn has been making masks since 2000, painting cardboard boxes lying around his studio and affixing paper tubes between cut-out “eyes.” The Masks (2000–), although originally approached as a less formal project, came to assert themselves as a new armature for his painting. In 2010 Grotjahn started casting the Masks in bronze. In many of the sculptures, he incorporated and retained remnants of the bronze casting process, such as the sprues and runners, into his final work. As he does with his paintings, Grotjahn often boldly signs the Masks, allowing his signature to come forward as a compositional element. In 2014 the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas presented the first museum exhibition of Grotjahn’s sculpture, including small-scale and larger freestanding works.
In 2016 Grotjahn began the Capri works (2016–), seeking to break away from the Face paintings in favor of a more experimental, spontaneous working process. The first Capri works, New Capri, were modestly scaled paintings created for a private presentation at Casa Malaparte in Capri, Italy. Following this exhibition, Grotjahn created the Capri paintings (2016–), followed by the Free Capri series (2018–), in which he introduced the technique of scraping out areas of thick paint, then placing the resulting “slugs” in rows and grids elsewhere on the canvas.
As the Butterflies, Faces, Masks, and Capri series continue to expand, Grotjahn uses Instagram to further experiment with repetition and juxtaposition, employing the grid format to freely arrange images in different combinations, in a form of visual tic-tac-toe. Throughout his work, by finding variations within his immediately identifiable style, Grotjahn reveals the complexities of authorial gesture.
New Capri, Capri, Free Capri
October 30–December 22, 2018
555 West 24th Street, New York
Extended through March 12, 2016
Untitled (Captain America)
January 19–March 12, 2016
980 Madison Avenue, New York
Artist Plate Project 2022
Coalition for the Homeless
Launching May 22, 2023, 10am edt
Limited-edition bone china plates produced by Prospect and featuring artwork by more than forty artists—including Virgil Abloh, Derrick Adams, Harold Ancart, Georg Baselitz, Amoako Boafo, Mark Grotjahn, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Ed Ruscha, Anna Weyant, and Jonas Wood—will be sold through Artware Editions to raise funds for the Coalition’s lifesaving programs. The funds raised by the sale of the plates will provide food, crisis services, housing, and other critical aid to thousands of people experiencing homelessness and instability. The purchase of one plate can feed one hundred homeless and hungry New Yorkers.
Takashi Murakami, Gargantua on Your Palm, 2018 © 2018 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved
Taipei Dangdai 2023
May 12–14, 2023, booth E10
Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Taipei Dangdai 2023, presenting works by Louise Bonnet, Dan Colen, Edmund de Waal, Urs Fischer, Cy Gavin, Nan Goldin, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Yayoi Kusama, Deana Lawson, Takashi Murakami, Sterling Ruby, Alexandria Smith, Spencer Sweeney, Kon Trubkovich, Mary Weatherford, Cameron Welch, Anna Weyant, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at Taipei Dangdai 2023. Artwork, left to right: © Mark Grotjahn; © Zeng Fanzhi; © 2023 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All rights reserved. Photo: Ringo Cheung
Art Basel Hong Kong 2023
March 22–25, 2023
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong 2023 with a presentation of modern and contemporary works by international artists.
Jadé Fadojutimi, As usual, the season’s showers tend to linger, 2023 © Jadé Fadojutimi
The Milton and Sheila Fine Collection
Through March 17, 2024
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Milton and Sheila Fine have been longtime advocates and supporters of the arts in their philanthropy throughout the Pittsburgh region. Promised to Carnegie Museum of Art in 2015, their collection of contemporary painting, sculpture, photography, and drawing reflects their interest in American and German art from the 1980s to the 2000s. This exhibition, which is presented as a celebration and remembrance of Milton Fine, who passed away in 2019, foregrounds the importance and impact of the gift. Work by Richard Artschwager, Georg Baselitz, Mark Grotjahn, Donald Judd, Brice Marden, David Reed, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Jeff Wall, and Christopher Wool is included.
Ed Ruscha, Victory, 1987, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh © Ed Ruscha
Desire, Knowledge, and Hope (with Smog)
Through April 7, 2024
The Broad, Los Angeles
Desire, Knowledge, and Hope (with Smog) is drawn entirely from the Broad collection and showcases works by Los Angeles–based artists. Titled after a work by John Baldessari, the exhibition includes reflections on Los Angeles as a city in flux and turmoil, and on societal issues that extend far beyond the city. Featuring more than sixty works made from 1969 to 2023, it brings together photorealistic painting, photography, sculpture, and political signage by twenty-one artists across varying generations. Work by Mark Grotjahn, Alex Israel, Ed Ruscha, and Jonas Wood is included.
Ed Ruscha, Honey . . . . I Twisted Through More Damned Traffic to Get Here, 1984, The Broad, Los Angeles © Ed Ruscha
Selections from the Hammer Contemporary Collection
June 10–August 27, 2023
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Presented in conjunction with the unveiling of the Hammer’s building expansion, Ecstatic highlights acquisitions made since 2005—the year the institution began collecting contemporary art. The exhibition is organized around two distinct installations of sculpture and works on paper that emphasize the role each medium plays within the scope of the museum’s collection. Work by Mark Grotjahn, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, and Jim Shaw is included.
Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Someday, 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles © Nathaniel Mary Quinn. Photo: Jeff McLane
Beautiful, Vivid, Self-contained
April 21–July 21, 2023
Hill Art Foundation, New York
Beautiful, Vivid, Self-contained is an exhibition curated by David Salle that brings together paintings and sculptures by artists working across different eras, mediums, and geographies to explore the notion of affinity between works of art. Alongside a painting by Salle from 1988, work by Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Mark Grotjahn, Brice Marden, Albert Oehlen, Pablo Picasso, Cy Twombly, and Christopher Wool is included.
Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 1990 © Albert Oehlen