Mark Grotjahn’s ‘Painted Sculpture’ Offers the Gorgeously Preposterous

Mark Grotjahn (born 1968) is an American painter best known for abstract work and bold geometric paintings. Grotjahn lives and works in Los Angeles.
Mark Grotjahn’s paintings have long pitted two important strands of early modernism — abstraction and masklike Expressionist faces — against each other and also against African art, to which both are so indebted. A few years ago, to his benefit, he started painting on bronze casts of cardboard boxes as well as canvas. His latest efforts, which he collectively calls “Painted Sculpture,” are gorgeously preposterous.
Grotjahn's mask sculptures extend the artist's idiosyncratic investment in the process and ritual of painting into three dimensions. Cast in bronze from spontaneous cardboard assemblages and often painted with the fingers, most of them rest on pedestals, while a few are wall-mounted, referring directly to painting.

But it is mostly up to us to sort the shifting parts of these half-alive, emphatically made things. For example, the two van Gogh-titled paintings initially made me think of organized Joan Mitchell surfaces. The long noses of course conjure Pinocchio, suggesting that Mr. Grotjahn’s latest hybrids could be as false as they are true.

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