Mark’s studio, Los Angeles
We went to visit Mark Grotjahn’s new studio in Frogtown this September on the eve of his inclusion in “The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World” at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
BP Do you know what you will show in the new paintings exhibition at MoMA this December?
MG They’re faces, but I wanted to categorize them as one series of work. I called them Circus paintings after the Seurat painting of the woman on a horse in a corral. I had that image printed out in my studio and it seemed like my paintings had a circular movement that related to that circus.
BP I had imagined your stripes of color as slack tightropes or trapeze lines. MG No, it’s not literally a circus. I wanted these paintings to be as patterned and as colorful as I could make them, to allow myself maximum freedom, to be as indulgent as possible.
BP The line down the middle almost feels like it was feathered.
BP And in tangible terms, what did that look like… that change?
BP In regard to your own art collection, I understand that you own a few Mike Kelley pieces?
BP Did you guys wind up becoming friends?
BP And do you remember any advice that he gave you making a difference?
BP What is the Chemosphere again?
BP So which Mike Kelley works do you own?
BP Interesting that we were talking about your Circus paintings ear- lier which have this central eye as a prominent feature and how that echoes in Kelley’s one-eyed tent.
BP And both of you used garbage as source material. In your case, I’m thinking of the mask sculptures made from cardboard boxes. Does that feel like a shared language?
BP Speaking of the masks, when they have really long noses do you think of them as having a connection to Pinocchio?
BP So the mask sculptures are never made with a subject in mind?
BP Have you heard of these new David Hammons’ pieces where he takes African masks from street vendors in New York and then paints them orange? Apparently he calls them “Orange is the New Black.”
BP May I ask what other artwork you live with?
BP Which Julian Schnabel painting?
BP So when Cy Twombly was installing his Bacchus paintings at Gagosian in New York, if the painting didn’t look done to him he’d have an assistant add a little peach to it. My question for you is what fix do you go to when you’re struggling with a painting?
BP I was talking to Jonas Wood yesterday who I know you’ve played a lot of poker with over the years. So who in your estimation is the best poker player in the art world?
BP What is your relationship with Jonas?
BP Do you own the painting he made of your two kids with a butterfly painting over the couch?
BP I guess you could call that a “fuck you” painting?
BP Is it true that you have a thing for redheads?
BP Did you used to be a redhead when you were younger?
BP Sounds almost like a Mick and Bianca Jagger situation where people say he found his female doppelgänger in her.
BP And does your affinity register in the work? Is that what the red/ orange butterfly paintings were about?
BP Almost how Warhol hired male hustlers to make his piss paintings?