Executed in 2010, Untitled (Full Color Butterfly 866) is a dazzling paradigm of Mark Grotjahn’s seminal Butterfly drawings, examples of which are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. A powerful cacophony of riotous color, Untitled (Full Color Butterfly 866) exudes a heady effervescence of intense psychedelic effect. As an explosion of color ignites from the epicentre of the paper, polychromatic angles of bold pigment punctuate to form an ordered arrangement, in turn espousing a wholly complete and coherent surface.
Adopting a quintessentially Op Art aesthetic unanimous with Grotjahn’s idiosyncratic style, the present work recalls the evocative and organic patterns found in nature, namely that of the delicate and exquisite butterfly. Beginning the series in 1997, the ongoing Butterfly series foregrounds modes of perspectival investigation, such as dual and multiple vanishing points – techniques used since the Renaissance to create the illusion of depth and volume on a two-dimensional surface. The central vanishing point becomes the body of the butterfly out of which streaming color wings radiate. As Michael Ned Holte comments, "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" (Michael Ned Holte, ‘Mark Grotjahn’, Artforum, November 2005, p. 259).
Grotjahn’s drawing engages with influences as diverse as the spatial illusions of Op Art, the social utopianism of Constructivism, and the avant-garde radicalism of analytical Cubism. Indeed, the artist’s prismatic drawings hold a myriad of complexities and references, as curator Douglas Fogle suggests "with contextual influences ranging widely from the history of geometric modernism — as seen in the works of artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian — to experiments in musical and filmic composition and typographic design, Grotjahn's butterflies playfully blur the once rigorous boundaries between representation and abstraction, between surface and depth, and between the conceptual and the concrete in artistic production" (Douglas Fogle cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, Blum & Poe, Mark Grotjahn: Butterfly Paintings, 2014, p. 37).
Grotjahn’s multi-sensory and highly controlled compositions follow a mechanical and scientific methodology; yet the artist’s hard-edge precision traditionally associated with Modernist geometric abstraction is wholly meticulous and overtly subjective. Representing a resplendent and iconic exemplification of Grotjahn’s most career-defining concerns, Untitled (Full Color Butterfly 866) serves as a superlative example of Grotjahn’s distinguished body of work.
colorcolored pencil on paper