The Speller grips the viewer with Mark Grotjahn’s piercing gaze; he matches our own stare with a profound intensity, acknowledging the viewer's presence in the interior space he occupies. As if skeptical of his guests, Grotjahn leans back from behind his desk to fiddle absentmindedly with his chair. Surrounding him, a complex patchwork of decorative and architectural elements dislocates the viewer within the composition’s dizzying spatial disorientation. In terms particularly evocative of the present work, Wood describes: “I can always add to or subtract from the image I’ve found. I’m using the images by tracing them and taking pieces of them out and then projecting them together and creating my own world….” (The artist in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Exh. Cat., Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, Jonas Wood, 2019, p. 94) In its deft combination of multiple source photographs into one conglomerate whole, The Speller embodies the very best of Wood's signature collage-like technique.
Through its deeply personal subject matter, expressed through a stylistic vernacular reminiscent of Analytic Cubism and Matisse’s brilliant painterly flatness, The Speller pays homage to art historical legends, while simultaneously asserting its rightful status as a contemporary masterpiece. Grotjahn’s pose and personal connection to the artist call to mind David Hockney’s 1970-71 portrait Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy, which exhibits a similar aura of arresting vigor. In Hockney’s work, designers Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, friends of the artist, address the viewer's presence, looking directly outward them with an inquisitive reservation, much like Mark Grotjahn does in The Speller. Curator Anna Katherine Brodbeck writes: “Wood’s depiction of contemporary artists like Grotjahn, with whom he has collaborated, along with veteran modern artists like Philip Guston, suggests an artistic lineage to which he aspires.” (Ibid., p. 17) Wood’s flattening of pictorial space resembles the whimsical spatial reconfiguration of Henri Matisse’s 1911 Intérieur aux aubergines (Interior with Aubergines); like the aubergines in Matisse’s work, which appear to float on the canvas’s surface due to the painting’s willful lack of shadowing, Wood’s plant—a recurring motif in his oeuvre—hovers in the center of The Speller’s composition, indicating no sense of physical grounding. Likening Wood’s singular artistic project to Matisse’s, art historian Ken D. Allan states: “In 1908 Henri Matisse explained, ‘The entire arrangement of my picture is expressive...Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painter’s disposal to express his feelings.’ Wood’s return to such questions allows us to see that painting’s delivery of visual pleasure has a history—a history that Wood’s work surely continues.” (Ibid., pp. 22-23)
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale