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Mark Grotjahn

Feb 17, 2012-Apr 29, 2012

Mark Grotjahn makes conceptually grounded paintings that collide abstract and figurative elements to unsettle the conventions of each. By continuously combining the seemingly incompatible poles of abstraction and figuration, realism and expressionism, rational logic and intuitive process, Grotjahn stakes a claim for the continued vitality of both abstraction and painting itself. The AAM’s exhibition of Grotjahn’s work was the artist’s first comprehensive museum survey in the US, including work produced from the late 1990s to the present.

In his Perspective and Butterfly paintings, Grotjahn combines varying schemes of one-point perspective—used since the Renaissance to produce the illusion of depth on a flat surface—to create mesmerizing abstractions. By upending the horizon line, the Butterfly paintings float free of perspectival grounding and oscillate between geometric abstraction and spatial illusion. While these works appear at first glance to be rigidly formal and graphic, their surfaces are often layered over underpaintings, which create tonal shifts and textured surfaces that reveal the process of their own making. In a more recent body of Face paintings, Grotjahn builds up complexly layered surfaces on sheets of primed cardboard mounted on linen. The basic elements of painting—line, color, and texture—are gradually worked into these penetrating images.

Grotjahn’s mask sculptures extend the artist’s idiosyncratic investment in the process and ritual of painting into three dimensions. Five of these masks were on view in Aspen and Snowmass: one on the grounds of the museum and one on each of the four ski mountains. The five sculptures were also featured on the 2011–12 limited-edition ski lift tickets.

Mark Grotjahn's exhibition was accompanied by a publication by the Aspen Art Press and distributed by Artbook | DAP, New York.

This exhibition was organized by the AAM and funded in part by the AAM National Council with additional support provided by Linda and Bob Gersh and Barbara and Michael Gamson. The publication was underwritten by Toby Devan Lewis. Exhibition lectures are presented as part of the Questrom Lecture Series and educational outreach programming is made possible by the Questrom Education Fund.