Mark Grotjahn


January 11, 2005 - April 17, 2005


Los Angeles artist Mark Grotjahn uses varying schemes of one-point perspective to create his beautiful, hypnotic, multicolored as well as monochromatic Prismacolor drawings. The elegantly formal and perceptually perplexing aspects of his radiating or converging lines, which resemble sunbursts or endless highways, are subverted by random spills and marks made by overdrawing from other works.

Hammer Projects are curated by James Elaine.

Mark Grotjahn: Drawings

By Libby Lumpkin


When considering Mark Grotjahn's distinctively expressive and mysteriously compelling uses of abstraction, standard rules do not apply. The seven drawings created for his exhibition at the Hammer Museum clearly demonstrate the artist's fluency in various dialects of the common abstract language, resonating with Constructivist and Minimalist tones and with a few refrains in less analytical abstract traditions. Searching for systematic principles with which to anchor Grotjahn's abstractions, however, is not particularly rewarding. Of the variable types of logic that underlie most abstract designs, whether traditional or trendy—aesthetic, symbol, metaphor, rhythm, presence, emotion, religion, digital generation, statistical data, and such—none quite fits.


Note the artist's densely applied pencil marks, which render the planar segments solidly opaque. Given the provocative dissonance between expressive "matter" and analytical 'mind," these marks compete with the linear configurations to be the key signifying element. One imagines the artist bearing down on the pencil with earnest, concentrated focus, as if in answer to some urgent necessity. The impasto-like "weightiness" of the marks suggest that that urgent necessity might be to establish a dialogue with the early, objectlike paintings of Jasper Johns and Frank Stella, or possibly with Richard Serra’s expressively "weighty" monochrome drawings. But the tedious, almost quixotic nature of the endeavor—forcing a dense impasto from delicate color pencils—leads one to suspect that the motivation originates not in the common culture, but in a more holistic domain that includes lived experience: as a schoolboy, Grotjahn was rewarded for achievements with poker chips meant to be 'cashed in" for prizes. The prizes he most often selected were coloring books featuring abstract, mazelike designs, the pages of which the young artist no doubt carefully burnished with a thick impasto of Crayola. More

Libby Lumpkin is an art historian and critic living temporarily in Southern California.


Hammer Projects are made possible with support from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and members of the Hammer Circle.

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