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Mark Grotjahn

Dancing Black Butterflies

February 26–March 11, 2008
980 Madison Avenue, New York

MARC GROTJAHN: Dancing Black Butterflies Installation view

MARC GROTJAHN: Dancing Black Butterflies

Installation view

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Works Exhibited

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007 Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), 2007

Color pencil on paper, 9 parts, ranging from: 65 ¾ × 47 ¾ inches (166 × 122 cm) to 72 × 48 inches (182 × 122 cm)

About

Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies), a drawing in nine parts. Originally shown in the Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland, this is the first exhibition of this drawing in the United States.

Living in Los Angeles in the mid 1990s, Grotjahn began working on a stream of densely worked pencil drawings, followed by oil paintings that focused on perspectival investigations of dual and multiple vanishing points, techniques used since the Renaissance to create the illusion of depth and volume on a two-dimensional surface. Grotjahn’s formalist compositions of complex, skewed angles and radiant, tonal color allude to the multiple narratives coursing through the history of modernist painting, from the utopian vision of Russian constructivism to the hallucinatory images of Op art. The extreme elegance of the works is tempered by processual scuffs and markings that introduce a sense of contingency into otherwise highly controlled compositions.

While at first glance Grotjahn’s oeuvre seems bound to purely aesthetic issues in modernist discourse, references to nature and movement are plentiful. His butterfly motif, one of several recurring connections to the natural world, along with flowers and water, has yielded extensive possibilities in both drawing and painting. Nature and culture merge in the Butterfly drawings, where groupings of vibrant, multicolored triangles are anchored to gently sloping, vertical lines. Resembling abstract butterfly wings, the works call to mind the butterfly effect, introduced by a mathematician and meteorologist in the 1960s, which maintains that the subtlest movement of a butterfly’s wings could eventually cause a tornado—a ready analogy, perhaps, to Grotjahn’s quietly provocative experiments within the history of abstraction.

To this end, Untitled (Dancing Black Butterflies) pursues the butterfly motif to its ultimate formal and historical conclusion, the rainbow-hued “wings” pared back to elementary black. These sequential drawings follow the subtle shifts in movement of forms, suggesting a performative aspect to Grotjahn’s work.