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“Vehicles of Fascination”: Barry Schwabsky on Mark Grotjahn

Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Green Butterfly Yellow MG), 2003. Collection of David Teiger. Courtesy of Anton Kern Gallery, New York. Photo: Thomas Müller.

“Vehicles of Fascination,” AICA-USA board member Barry Schwabsky’s essay on Los Angeles artist Mark Grotjahn, is featured in a 2013 Aspen Art Museum catalogue covering the first survey of the artist’s work from the 1990s to the present. Examining Grotjahn’s contrasting body of work, which ranges from abstract to figuratively oriented paintings and mask sculptures; Schwabsky seeks to give a provisory account of its underlying unity. The powerful optical presence of Grotjahn’s pieces is often commented on, but to Schwabsky what is more central is their physical presence. This preeminence of the pieces’ tangibility over their visuality is supported by the artist’s practice, which privileges tactility over precise color combinations. Yet what can be seen and felt in these pieces accounts for only part of the experience. The other part, which Schwabsky argues has an even greater power, is “something else that wants to remain hidden, obscure;” this flickering presence “stopping you in your tracks.” 

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