In 2011, he left a Two by Two for AIDS benefit auction just as his donated painting was coming up for bid. He reeled down the driveway of art collector
Inside, Grotjahn's painting was making history as the highest sale of the night,
Grotjahn's better now -- a little penance, a lot of recovery and a return to the scene of embarrassment.
It is interesting that this follows the David Bates exhibition because Bates is a painter who was lured to the sculptural side in much the same way as Grotjahn. For both of them it began as a lark and soon proved so creatively rewarding that they now move back and forth between painting and sculpting, one discipline encouraging the other.
The artists use similar, humble materials; the common denominator is cardboard boxes and then, once cast, the boxes are often painted.
Grotjahn calls his boxes masks, and with their cardboard tube noses and punched out eye holes, they definitely fit the bill. He recognizes that they look like elementary-school projects; that was initially part of the charm. There is humor here.
It is impossible to look at his yellow box with two long vibrating noses, Untitled (Thrown and Expressed Yellow Sea Rose, Italian Mask M30.c), and not think "SpongeBob!" or to confront his tall vertical box studded with toilet paper rolls, Untitled (African,
What began as amusing studio high jinks has become much more serious.
Grotjahn does not give his works titles, but they do accumulate them. In the studio the single-nose sculptures are known as French, as they are painted with a style reminiscent of the French impressionists; the double-nose boxes are Italian.
This is not racial profiling, insists
Gated masks are large standing heads that still have the construction elements of casting clinging to their surfaces. Gates, sprues and vents, used to facilitate casting, also provide stands, supports and an interesting exoskeleton.
The smaller casts sit on pedestals with their end flaps splayed for stability. Any gouges or tears in the cardboard seem to be relished, as they faithfully reappear on the cast. The uneven surfaces are then lovingly painted and the gouges become accentuated.
Grotjahn's paintings are interesting, as are his sculptures, but his best efforts are the passages of paint on the sculptures. He seems to throw his whole body into surface contact with the bronze, and the results are delightful.
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