- Mark Grotjahn
- Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective)
- oil on linen laid down on panel
- 152.4 by 121.9cm.; 60 by 48in.
- Executed in 1999.
Private Collection, New York
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art Day Auction, 10 May 2012, Lot 490
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Mark Grotjahn in conversation with Arcy Douglass, 6 October 2010, online resource.
Vividly striking and optically alluring, Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective) forms part of the artist’s seminal series of the same name, which radically explores the properties and effects of serial abstraction. Grotjahn's early perspectival investigations commenced in the late 1990s in the Bay City area of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Conceptually inspired by storefront signs he discovered around the city, he would replicate them and present them to the stores’ owners. In 1998, his practice evolved into conceptual perspectival studies with two or more vanishing points, a technique that playfully subverts the canonised Renaissance understanding of one-point perspective. "I wanted to find a motif that I could experiment with for a while. I did a group of drawings over a period of six to twelve months. The drawing that I chose was one that resembled the three tier perspective, and that is what I went with" (Mark Grotjahn in conversation with Arcy Douglass, 6 October 2010, reproduced online). Methodical and exacting, Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective) brilliantly expresses Grotjahn's highly analytical painting technique, whilst simultaneously reverberates with the time-consuming labour of its own creation to spellbinding effect.
Firmly rooted in both conceptual criteria and random selection, Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective) innovatively calls into question the traditional relationships between space, depth and the picture plane. Fastidiously trisected into vertically stacked unequal rectangular tiers, within all three sections polychromatic orthoganals recede into three differing vanishing points effecting a hypnotically complex and intriguing composition. To create such a spatially complex work, Grotjahn followed a rigorous process whereby he first methodically mapped out the triangular radii in pencil before progressing on to fill in the contours, always working from left to right. The dynamic, magnetic energy that exudes from Untitled (Three-Tiered-Perspective) as a result is harnessed and magnified by its sheer immersive scale. As critic Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson points out, "Grotjahn knows how to seduce the viewer and then just as easily throw them into a tailspin" (Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson in: Exhibition Catalogue, Aspen, Aspen Art Museum, Mark Grotjahn, 2012, p. 56).
After ritualistically drafting a framework of non-parallel lines, the artist first selects a wide palette from which he chooses individual colours at random, creating the unexpected and exciting combinations that are experienced in Untitled (Three-Tiered-Perspective). Each richly opaque ray of colour is entirely independent, a technique that lends the overall piece Grotjahn’s characteristic clarity and precision. At the same time, each sleek monochromatic triangle visually appears to dissolve into lustrous terrains of thick impasto creating a shimmering yet solidifying effect that traces the force of the artist’s body as he has ranged over the canvas. The unifying quality of the impasto effects the artist’s greatest paradox – although constructed of many parts Untitled (Three-Tiered-Perspective) is a seamless whole, a harmonious and fluidly balanced composition.
Grotjahn's iconic composition of complex, skewed angles and radiant colour both challenges and expands upon the paradigms of classical and modernist painting. His genius lies in his revolutionary use of perspective and geometric manipulations of space. The hypnotic, kaleidoscopic creation that is the present work is flamboyant and electric yet deliberately enigmatic at the same time. As Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson lyrically summarises, Grotjahn’s works are “Rife with excitement – physical, perceptual, aesthetic, intellectual – and while full of ideas, they are also alive with colour, line, texture, figure, and form. They dare you to look at them, and it is through that visual challenge that both they and you awaken” (ibid., p. 7.).