Los Angeles-based artist Mark Grotjahn came to prominence for large, richly worked paintings that evoke aspects of contemporary discourse. In two different series—the Face and the Butterfly paintings—Grotjahn used essential subjects to explore textures, colors, and form with refreshing boldness and almost hallucinogenic intensity. Alongside his paintings, Grotjahn has been working privately on sculpture for over a decade. The Nasher’s exhibition, the first presentation of Grotjahn’s sculpture in a museum, showcased many new, never-before-seen, three-dimensional works.
Ranging in size from small, intimate compositions to larger-scale free standing works, the sculptures derived from common cardboard boxes and tubes that had been combined and cut to roughly resemble masks or faces, then scraped, cast in bronze, and either left raw or often elaborately painted. Grotjahn retained the bronze remnants of the wax casting sprues (used to feed molten bronze to the sculpted form (gates) and remove steam (vents) during the lost-wax casting process). The resulting constructions were a complex hybrid of sculpture and painting, which declared themselves as sculptural objects while dissolving into lusciously painted surfaces. Rough and rudimentary, as well as vibrantly colorful and at times sensuous and elegant, Grotjahn’s sculptures employed the essential minimalist form—the box—and extended the exploration of the painted object practiced by modern artists like Pablo Picasso, Jean Dubuffet, and Alberto Giacometti.