October 29, 2015
August 11, 2015 — In his fourth solo exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery, painter and sculptor Mark Grotjahn presents a new body of painted bronzes. This is the first gallery exhibition to further elaborate upon the artist’s 2014 sculpture presentation at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.
In a radical act of transformation, Grotjahn takes the most casual throwaway material, the cardboard box, and turns it into the most solid and noble of art mediums: the pedestal-mounted bronze sculpture. With their rough cutouts for eyes and mouths, glued-on cardboard tubes and toilet paper rolls for pipe-like noses, and ripped cardboard surfaces for texture and definition, these assemblages resemble primitive, child-like masks. Cast in bronze, Grotjahn paints them in decisive hues of green, purple, and red, inflected with smaller doses of other colors that are applied in gestural, expressionistic trails of paint and chromatic networks. Elevated on pinewood pedestals, the masks function simultaneously as paintings and as three-dimensional objects.
The mask or the grotesque face, a central although not always visible motif in Grotjahn’s painting and drawing practice from the beginning, has broken out of the flat surface into a three-dimensional form, and thereby freed the artist from the need to adhere to any face-like verisimilitude in the painting process. Grotjahn’s painted sculptures have become true hybrids—not mere combinations of two techniques, but rather unprecedented crossbreeds. They add an unparalleled step to the genealogy of modern art and of painted sculpture in particular, entering a dialogue with modernist concepts of the found object, the assemblage and welded sculpture (Pablo Picasso, Julio González) as well as non-Western-art-inspired objects and masks (Henri Matisse, André Derain, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner). Grotjahn is creating paintings without pictorial reference that are yet deeply rooted in the ancestry of the mask as an object of ritual, reflection and analysis of the unconscious.
An accompanying exhibition catalogue, published by Distanz, will be available in 2017.
2015Wall Street JournalA Painter’s Sculptural Turn and an Insider Art World Favorite
2015New York Times