The so-called Butterfly paintings and drawings of Mark Grotjahn (American, b. 1968) combine analytical hard-edged abstraction and one-point perspective to make 2D images appear as 3D objects. This type of abstraction is the means by which the perspective system reveals itself—and vice versa. They consist of two distinct phenomenological and theoretical universes that neither cancel each other out, nor represent anything. With two means and no ends, one would expect a more ascetic, conceptual type of image, but Grotjahn’s paintings are lavishly decorative and unabashedly entertaining. This lack of anxiety about the picture plane, flatness, figuration and illusionism is the clearest sign that the modernist endgame has either ended or come full circle.
Butterfly Art – New Untitled Randomness
Besides perspective, Grotjahn also explored the ideas of color restriction, seriality, and the sublime. His art style originated out of sign making. He would reproduce an interesting graphics and slogans from various stores in Los Angeles, where he’s located to this day. After creating a faithful copy he would trade it with the store owners for the original signage. The transition from perspective drawings to perspectival paintings opened the doors to what later became his signature work – The Butterfly Paintings. Using multiple colors, Mark Grotjahn’s work is an interesting combination of rationality and intuition not often available in gallery and museum contemporary world. Although there was a lot of experimenting and chance, all of the untitled paintings followed a strict work system. He would first start by mapping out the triangular radii with a black pencil. After creating the skeleton, he would carefully pick a precise number of color pencils. The main rule for the color-picking was for the color to make sense in correspondence on to another, meaning they had a connection according to their value and intensity. After picking a satisfying number of pencils he would choose them randomly one segment of the painting. At the end of 20th century, Grotjahn started to focus more on the investigation of the radiant motif in his work, which can be seen in his later Butterfly paintings. Using Renaissance techniques in order to expose the perspective of his subjects, he managed to create an illusion of narrowing and expanding geometries. Although all of these paintings seem very ceremonial, their true essence lies in emitting a succession of parallel lines which create the illusion. Probably the most intriguing proof is the fact these parallel lines are never parallel to the edges of the canvas. His untitled work might look as if it’s strictly glued to aesthetic ideals of modernism, but there are many references to nature. The butterfly motif alongside flowers and water in his untitled pieces enabled him more than one opportunity to break this misconception and participate in worldwide museum and gallery exhibitions. The probabilistic elegance inwrought with systematic rules created untitled paintings which are both mysterious and direct. With the unique approach, Grotjahn managed to create a two-way street between abstract and figurative. His sculpture and paper based untitled works became an indispensable part of gallery and museum universe of New York City and beyond.