Composed of multicolored prismatic fans, Mark Grotjahn's Untitled Colored Butterfly White Background 10 Wings 527), possesses a cinematic energy that clearly demonstrates the artist's fluency in various dialects of the common abstract language. Exploiting the Renaissance technique of the central vanishing point, Grotjahn's formalist composition of complex, skewed angles and radiant, tonal colors allude to the multiple narratives coursing through the history of modernist painting, from the utopian vision of Russian Constructivism to the hallucinatory images of Op art. While at first the extreme elegance of Untitled (Colored Butterfly White Background 10 Wings 527) seems bound to the purely aesthetic modernist discourse, reference of nature and movement are plentiful. Resembling abstract butterfly wings, the sequential drawing follows the subtle shifts in movement of forms, suggesting a performative aspect to the work.
Perhaps the most dramatic example of this dissonant visual effect can be seen in the series of Grotjahn's large-format Butterfly drawings that were shown at the UCLA Hammer Museum in 2005, for which Untitled (Colored Butterfly White Background 10 Wings 527) was conceived. Adopting a rigorous system of production, Grotjahn here has drafted an infrastructure consisting of a set of thirteen non-parallel lines that vertically traverse the paper. 'Randomly' choosing individual colored pencils from a selection of hues that hold together both in value and intensity, the artist works methodically from left to right and top to bottom meticulously applying densely laid pencil marks to form solidly opaque planar segments, thus creating his butterfly 'wings.' And yet, the aberrant markings that appear in open expanses of his drawings are the result of a different ritual: Grotjahn works on smaller drawings placed on top of the paper, allowing his hand to stray off their edges. In this way, he adds a diaristic layer of marks, many of which are completely obscured when the larger drawing is complete. An archeological history in the stigmata that form as the result of the artist using these larger drawings as a surface on which to produce other works, Untitled (Colored Butterfly White Background 10 Wings 527) emerges as a kind of palimpsest revealing the marks of it the series own process of creation.
The butterflies, whose bodies are vanishing points of these multiple perspective systems, move across the paper with an almost cinematic dynamism as the viewer moves from one pair of wings to the next. With a scaffolding of vertical stabilizers defining their spatiality, they bring to mind fractal geometries or perhaps the seminal film tile sequences of the legendary designer Saul Bass--popularized for such opening sequences as Alfred Hitchcock's North by North West, Psycho, and Vertigo. As with these film titles, Grotjahn's butterflies hover precipitously close to this line between abstract geometry and illusionist spatiality, displaying a kind of graphic unconscious that constitutes a paradoxically systematic disruption of a rational and orderly system.