amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS

Mark Grotjahn

TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art 2011 Honoree

Mark Grotjahn is among the most accomplished and preeminent painters of his generation. At first glance, his work may appear to be based in pure modernist abstraction, but suggestions of nature and natural phenomena are plentiful. His pared down butterfly motif is among his best known compositional devices, one he has used to introduce multiple vanishing points and optical variations in materials, light and color. Deftly creating dynamic illusions of depth and space on a two-dimensional surface, Grotjhan makes reference to various points in the history of painting, from Renaissance linear perspective, to the utopian shapes and visions of early 20th century Russian Constructivism, to the hallucinatory images of 1960s Op Art.

In recent years Grotjahn has been working on a series of what he terms his “face” paintings. Unlike the strict geometries found in the butterfly works, Grotjahn’s face paintings appear more free and loose, exhibiting a raw energy and a greater degree of back-and-forth between abstraction and figuration. Using sheets of cardboard primed and mounted on linen, Grotjahn employs brush and palette knife to build layer upon layer of oil paint to almost sculptural ends. Varying in scale, combinations of texture, line, color and abstracted geometric forms develop into eyes and noses that are broken down, multiplied, and rearranged, fracturing any fixed perspective and recalling elements of Cubist portraiture. Other paintings deploy networks of expressive lines formed just with a palette knife, and again seem to border on pure abstraction. Both the gestural and literal carvings cut up these paintings, and further add to the tension between a painted illusion of space and the paintings’ tactile physical surface. Mark Grotjahn continues to invest painting with new discoveries in form and technique, while imbuing the opposites of abstraction and representation with an idiosyncratic range of beautiful and complex meanings.

Mark Grotjahn was born in 1968 in Pasadena, California. He received his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley, and his BFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Solo exhibitions include the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2005); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2006); Kunstmuseum Thun, Switzerland (2007); Gagosian Gallery, London (2009); Blum and Poe, Los Angeles (2010); and Anton Kern Gallery, New York (2011). He will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum in the spring of 2012 which will present his butterfly and face paintings jointly.

Grotjahn’s work is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. He is represented by Anton Kern Gallery in New York, Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, Gagosian Gallery in London, Paris, and Rome, and Athens, and Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago. Mark Grotjahn lives and works in Los Angeles.

As part of TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art 2011, distinguished artist Mark Grotjahn will receive the amfAR Award of Excellence for Artistic Contributions to the Fight Against AIDS in recognition of his continuous support of amfAR’s programs. The presentation of this award will take place during a brunch on October 23rd at The Power Station hosted by Janelle and Alden Pinnell and sponsored by Flexjet, to whom we offer sincere appreciation.

TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art is honored to have Mark Grotjahn as the featured artist of our thirteenth year of this endeavor. On behalf of amfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art, we extend special thanks to him, Anton Kern Gallery, Blum & Poe, Gagosian Gallery, and Shane Campbell Gallery, for their extraordinary support of Mark and of this event.