"[Mark Grotjahn's] paintings are rife with excitement-physical, perceptual, aesthetic, intellectual-and while full of ideas, they also are alive with color, line, texture, figure, and form. They dare you to look at them, and it is through that visual challenge that both they and you awaken" (H. Zuckerman Jacobson, Director of the Aspen Art Museum)
Vividly striking and optically entertaining, Mark Grotjahn's Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective) is an elaborate array of colorful bands that draw the viewer further into the work. In this composition from 1999, Grotjahn presents three disparate vanishing points with his signature multicolored vectors, each seemingly continuing through the canvas and beyond the painting infinitely. The three contrived planes are trisected by alternating bands of color, both differentiating each distinct plane and also affecting the repetitive feel of an endless open highway at sunset, the scenery zooming past. A precursor to the artist's subsequent Buttlerfly paintings, Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective) demonstrates Grotjahn's profound interest in using serial abstraction in order to explore the properties and effects it creates. Rather than wishing to simply make an idea visible, Grotjahn is much more concerned with creating an experience of the painting and "feeling" space, a goal that he achieves in this vivacious work.
While extremely colorful, injudiciously chosen colors reflect the artist's interest in creating a visually stimulating work while leaving certain elements to chance. Wanting to create a tangible object for the viewer to experience, it is no surprise that Grotjahn has been known to first select his colors, creating an invented limited palette that he then chose from at random, thus creating the unique interaction between unexpected combinations. The colors on the canvas in the present lot possess a rich and deep tonality, yet they are also opaque and precise; there is no bleeding or overlapping; each "ray" of color is independent from the next. This materiality suggested by this flatness is paramount in Grotjahn's work; where materials and layering of paint is deliberate.
Often charged with the inheritance of the abstract painting tradition in America, Grotjahn's compositions bring a heightened level of excitement and an experiential quality to the genre that has rarely been felt since the declared "death of painting." Like Barnett Newman, with his iconic "zip" motifs, or Josef Albers's diligent study of the square, Grotjahn's extremely conceptual and methodical approach to the exploration of a certain motif, like these vectors, astounds in both its extremely exquisite visual result as well as his tireless exploration that constantly changes and matures his compositions of the same pattern. Grotjahn's study and true appreciation for the process of painting comes across dramatically in Untitled (Three-Tiered Perspective) as the viewer immediately appreciates the effort and patience that live within each angle of color and incised line. Grotjahn is giving viewers his "tiered" perspective; the complex, multi-point perspective, allowing them to experience what he sees, constantly keeping us off-balance with their intense physical and optical presence.