Blue Paintings Light to Dark One through Ten
February 28, 2007
The title of the exhibition is the most concise description of the works on view: Blue Paintings Light to Dark One through Ten. After Mark Grotjahn’s recent solo show of drawings at the Whitney Museum, this is the first presentation of paintings in New York in four years and his second solo show at Anton Kern Gallery.
For this body of blue monochrome “butterfly” paintings, Mark Grotjahn primed each one with a layer of radiant orange-red paint. In some cases he added a brush drawing of a mask-like face and thereby, in conjunction with the warm under-color, hinting—almost imperceptibly—at the painter’s larger project: employing a rigorously systematic approach (geometry and monochromatic color) to generate images of remarkable emotional force. Grotjahn then methodically applies rays of blue paint, starting from a central point, one shade of blue per ray, always leaving a vertical strip of blue in the center and along the margins. Light is captured in the texture of the brush strokes following the segments’ radial direction.
In what he calls “butterfly” paintings, Grotjahn builds a sensory world, gripped by curiosity and wonder, the visible and the invisible, in which we encounter the specters of modernism, and indeed, in which we find our perception transformed from pure optical sensation into motive power and emotional energy.