Virgil Grotfeldt

Black and White Abstract Mixed Media Drawing with Botanical Elements 2000



Coal, pencil, and paper


Monochromatic abstract work on paper by Houston, TX artist Vergel Grotfeldt. This piece depicts a black figure of a swan and snail on leaves and tree branches. These figures are drawn on an old letter with signs of wear, purposefully chosen to convey timelessness in this particular work. The piece is signed and dated at the bottom right corner. Framed in a silver-colored wooden frame.

Artist Biography

Virgil Grotfeldt was born in 1948 in Decatur, Illinois, and studied at Eastern Illinois University and the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. After a brief stay in Chicago, he settled in Houston in 1977, where emerging galleries and alternative spaces such as Diverse Works and the University of Houston Lawndale Annex were fostering a vibrant new art scene. His last teaching position was at Houston Baptist University. Although Grotfeldt frequently collaborated with the Dutch artist (and former student of Joseph Beuys) Waldo Bien beginning in the late 1980s, and remained close to the artist community in Houston, he maintained a deeply personal sensibility. Preferring a monochromatic palette of earth tones, which contributed to his work’s sense of timelessness, Grotfeldt emphasized texture as an expressive device. He experimented with materials, working with coal powder, clay, ground metal, acrylic, and metal dust on paper, which he combined with carbon, watercolor, or oil. He incorporated found letters, antique maps, and nautical charts to initiate a dialogue between conscious systems of order and the expressive freedom of the subconscious. One of Virgil Grotfeldt’s last bodies of work, a series of sixteen oil paintings completed during the final year of his illness, was based on MRI scans of his brain. With utmost clarity, these works document Grotfeldt’s key ambition to make sense of the many forces life entails its contradictions, inflictions, and puzzles. By making the MRI scans his material of choice, he abstracted the records documenting the failing health of his body. But by painting on them as a point of departure, he was able to create something vivid and vibrant, a home for the imagination built by an undeterred spirit. Grotfeldt had numerous national and international solo exhibitions. His work is part of the Menil Collection, Houston; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Chengdu Museum, China; and the Fritz Becht Collection, Amsterdam. In 2003, a major publication of his work, entitled Virgil Grotfeldt, with text by Patrick Healy, an introduction by Walter Hopps, and designed by Waldo Bien, was published by Wienand, Cologne.

Dimensions With Frame

H 17.88 in x W 12.63 in x D 1.5 in

Dimensions Without Frame

H 13.25 in. x W 8 in.