Thickly layered, the riveting Untitled (Creamsicle 864) from 2010 stuns in its exceptional clarity and mesmeric beauty. Here, a central vanishing point marks the centre of the butterfly’s ‘abdomen’, while flying rays dart outward, fluttering across the diagonal trajectories of the slightly skewed ‘wings’ – their tremoring vectors conjure the sensation of being captured mid-flight. Summoning natural world phenomena, while investigating the fundamental tenets of abstraction, the artist achieves a result that is as aesthetically seductive as it is rigorously analytical. Grotjahn’s formal evocation of one-point perspective relates to academic conventions of painting developed by Leon Battista Alberti during the Renaissance in order to skilfully render depth within a flat surface. His Butterfly paintings operate within the tension between the ostensibly incongruous poles of abstraction and figuration, complicating the formal correlation between the winged insects and the pictures’ purely geometric organisations of shapes. As Douglas Fogle notes: “Grotjahn’s butterflies hover precipitously close to the line between abstract geometry and illusionistic spatiality, displaying a kind of graphic unconscious that constitutes a paradoxically systematic disruption of a rational and orderly system” (Douglas Fogle, ‘In the Center of the Infinite’, Parkett 80, 2007, p. 117). The refined precision and forthright simplicity of Untitled (Creamsicle 864)’s symmetry and black-and-white palette is punctuated by reminders of artistic process: scuffs, scratches, and stutters interrupt the otherwise even surface, thrillingly deviating from the highly controlled structure of the image.
The radial bands of binary black and white possess an unnervingly seductive inner force, a concentrated energy that draws the viewer into its hypnotic hold and refuses to let go. In the reductive palette of the present example, Grotjahn’s composition reverberates with incredible urgency, pronounced elegance, and magnificent composure. Intricately wrought and carefully choreographed, Untitled (Creamsicle 864) envelops the full force of Grotjahn’s extreme acuity for spatial relationships, endlessly engaging anyone who stands before it in a dynamic optical experience.
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