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Mark Grotjahn
UNTITLED (FACE 41.05)
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6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 6,987,500 USD
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4
Mark Grotjahn
UNTITLED (FACE 41.05)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
6,000,0008,000,000
LOT SOLD. 6,987,500 USD
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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York

Mark Grotjahn
B. 1968
UNTITLED (FACE 41.05)
signed, titled and dated 2010 on the overlap
oil on cardboard mounted on canvas
50 by 39 5/8 in. 127 by 100.7 cm.
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Provenance

Gagosian Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Catalogue Note

A masterful, rhythmic fusion of abstraction and figuration, Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled (Face 41.05) hails from the artist’s most esteemed body of paintings, the Face Paintings. Analogous to his Butterfly paintings, Grotjahn’s Face Paintings employ the classical Renaissance technique of a converging one-point perspective, creating a mesmerizing optical energy and churning composition that appears to simultaneously devour and regenerate itself. With a bravado that echoes the rich action paintings of Abstract Expressionist titans Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and a vectored composition that pays tribute to Futurists such as Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini, the present work successfully integrates ineffable dynamism into a syntax of gestural expression. Painted with both brush and palette knife atop primed corrugated cardboard mounted on linen, Grotjahn builds the surface of Untitled (Face 41.05) through a thick impasto of vectored lines that curve and carve through the composition, catalyzing a chaotic density of paint that is both instinctive and systematic.

Untitled (Face 41.05) navigates a notoriously tenuous tightrope between the pillars of abstraction and figuration by suggesting a face beneath purely geometric bands of color. Grotjahn’s Face Paintings typically depict a a glimpse of a pair of eyes, round pupils, the outline of a nose, the suggestion of nostrils, or the cavernous opening of a mouth. In Untitled (Face 41.05) three elongated almond-shaped eyes peer out from beneath the abstracted thicket, revealing the hidden vestiges of a face. Grotjahn arranges the composition of Untitled (Face 41.05) toward a pivotal equilibrium that is balanced and symmetrical, further reiterating the mirror-image motif of anatomical design. Just as we begin to discern the possibility of this guise, it disappears—lost to abstraction—and is consumed as quickly as it emerged. Untitled (Face 41.05) further distinguishes itself among the Face Paintings through its particularly heightened interplay between bands that converge and fold into one another, recalling patterns of arterial anatomy or expanding and contracting muscle groups. Grotjahn’s all-encompassing abstraction in the present work renders Untitled (Face 41.05) a highly important iteration on his Face series, one that heroically evades a standstill image as it oscillates between legible physiognomy and anthropomorphism.

In Untitled (Face 41.05), radial bands of scarlet vermillion, deep phthalo blue, cadmium yellow, and viridian green explode layer by layer through the composition, setting the picture plane into undulating motion. Grotjahn juxtaposes these strong primary colors against more muted hues that he has tinted with white, grey, and other light neutrals. Such an effect creates rich visual contrast and depth in the composition, revealing how Grotjahn thoughtfully uses the palette knife to create a thorough and interconnected network whereby no band of color is autonomous, but rather a muddled adoption and amalgamation of the chromatic range of colors used elsewhere on the canvas. It is this careful calculation of color and placement that separates Grotjahn’s work from his Abstract Expressionist antecedents. As Barry Schwabsky wrote, “With Abstract Expressionism you were meant to feel the artist’s struggle toward the discovery of the image. It was supposed to have come into existence in the process of painting and it was supposed to have been hard-won. Grotjahn’s paintings too have the immediacy and freshness of discovery about them, but they don’t evoke struggle. Yes, the paint is worked up, and from time to time, one might even be tempted to describe the paint as tormented...But if Grotjahn plagues and harasses his surface at times, he does so cooly, not with impulsive vehemence so much as with craftsmanlike determination.” (Barry Schwabsky, "Vehicles of Fascination" in Exh. Cat., Aspen Art Museum, Mark Grotjahn, 2012, p. 61)

By painting alla prima, Grotjahn constantly renegotiates the internal relationships between line, color, and depth within the canvas, always working towards an underlying one-point perspective, yet fracturing and negating its purity by peeling, scraping, carving, wiping away, and even throwing paint at the canvas. As the face strives to materialize, it is cyclically masked by Grotjahn’s brush and palette knife, agents he uses to both create and destroy. Ultimately such “acts of destruction,” claims Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, “come out of love—wanting to know something so intensely that it must in fact be destroyed to be known again.” (Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, ‘Disruption’ in Exh. Cat., Aspen, Aspen Art Museum, Mark Grotjahn, 2012, p. 56)

At its core, Grotjahn’s series of Face Paintings is about the elemental, most basic elements of painting such as line, color, texture, and perspective. What distinguishes the Face Paintings is the process by which Grotjahn intentionally complicates an easy reading of his work by infusing his paintings with effervescent motion, leaving them in a state of continual flux between disruption and reconciliation. By this formula, Untitled (Face 41.05) upholds Grotjahn’s unparalleled mastery of paint and the enduring power of abstraction, thus trumpeting a glorious affirmation of the unnerving, seductive synergy of medium and method.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
New York