Mark Grotjahn: Backcountry




Gagosian presents Backcountry, an exhibition of new paintings by Mark Grotjahn. This is his first exhibition at the gallery in London since 2016.

In his paintings, Grotjahn interweaves various modes of abstraction, employing an expansive and evolving vocabulary of motifs and techniques. Exploring colour, perspective, seriality, and the sublime, he also reflects on the broad history of nonrepresentational painting, from ancient to modern times. In Backcountry, Grotjahn moves still further away from the anthropomorphic underpinnings of earlier series such as Masks (2000–) and Face (2003–17), alluding instead to rural landscape while edging closer to an entirely spontaneous mode of expression.

Most of the paintings on view in London are in a horizontal format on black grounds; all of them are executed in Grotjahn’s favoured medium of oil on linen-mounted cardboard, which he scrapes and sometimes carves into revealing layers of paint. The Backcountry series (2021–) follows from a body of work produced in 2016 for an exhibition at Casa Malaparte on the Italian isle of Capri. Inspired by the landmark modernist house of writer Curzio Malaparte (1898–1957), Grotjahn inaugurated the Capri series of paintings with a group titled New Capri, the compositions of which evoke the house’s clifftop setting.

In Backcountry, the title of which was suggested by the artist’s ski touring and fly-fishing activities in Colorado, Grotjahn again explores the formal and expressive possibilities of paint, experimenting further with abstract mark making, colour, and texture, combining systematic structure with gestural spontaneity. In using black grounds with different coloured substrates, he aims to give the paintings a graphic muscularity, imparting a different feel from that of his previous white paintings. “In the new paintings,” he observes, “it’s into the night. It’s the stars; it’s being a small person on a big globe.”

Lead Image: Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (Backcountry Capri 54.79) 2022, ©Mark Grotjahn Photo: Douglas M Parker Studio

Duration 29 September 2022 - 05 November 2022
Times Tuesday–Saturday 10–6
Cost Free
Venue Gagosian Gallery (Grosvenor Hill)
Address 20 Grosvenor Hill, London, W1K 3QD
Contact / london@gagosian.com / www.gagosian.com

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