Grotjahn’s belief in the expressive possibilities of abstraction is proven by his constant, almost obsessive, exploration of his signature motif, the butterfly. As its matter-of-fact title emphasizes, this is one of the artist’s larger and more complex drawings. The work is more intuitive than its consistent patterning implies—Grotjahn determines the converging points of each “wing” of radiating color by eye, and each is completely unique. The stray marks that appear throughout are remnants of other, smaller drawings worked on top of this larger piece. These slight differences and elements of chance are subtly disorienting—they thwart attempts to place these colorful shapes in any sort of realistic, unified space.
The artist’s devotion to his distinctive butterfly form recalls the belief of early modern proponents of abstraction in the universal nature of their artistic language. Grotjahn’s continuing exploration, however, reveals his body of work as distinctly personal and shaped by private goals. These butterflies are not meant to be realistic depictions of insects, but the work’s title does suggest a way to read this drawing—as lively waves of color flitting across the page.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 232.