Reaping the Wind
    Lorri Ott at exit a gallery space

    Epiphanies surround us – the only question is how to catch them. Whether that’s a
    matter of focus, technique, grace, or mere serendipity, one of the fundamental goals
    of contemporary art is to move back to the beginning of perception, touching and
    seeing as if for the first time. But the mind is swathed in allusion and metaphor,
    sweating in the hot winds of social expectation and non-stop perceptual data.
    Freshness is a lot to ask.
    Another of art’s priorities, at least in recent decades, is the urge to include
    everything, especially utilitarian, untidy, objects and materials that seem to ask
    impertinent questions about formal expectations. It’s been almost thirty years since
    the late curator Marcia Tucker lost her job at the Whitney following a show of post-
    minimalist Richard Tuttle’s offhand works. In a classic curmudgeon-moment Hilton
    Kramer said of Tuttle’s 1977 solo show, “less has never been less than this.” All the
    same, Tucker founded the New Museum later that year. A revered figure, she died
    tragically young at the age of 66 just this past month. Tuttle himself has long since
    been recognized as a premier artist of our period and is one of the most influential
    artists in the world.

    Lorri Ott’s small, fey sculptures blow in from the casual realities of the street, fixing
    themselves on exit a gallery space’s walls and floor like wind-borne refuse. Indebted
    to Tuttle, Ott presses aspects of that artist’s general approach into the service of her
    own preoccupations. Where Tuttle explores the implications of drawing, unwinding
    line into three dimensions with materials like florist wire and bubblewrap, Ott is more
    about the physical presence of paint. The works at her exhibit At a Distance from the
    Real play visual chords composed of intervals the artist finds between the physical
    facts of painting, and certain real objects, and sculpture. An Installation for AADFR,
    for instance, consists of two elements. A kite tail made of triangular chips of colorful
    dried paint connected with white string hangs vertically on the wall. On the floor at a
    little distance are three crumpled objects made from light blue cast resin. In this and
    other works the interior space of the gallery is manipulated to present an idea of
    large exterior volumes, like streets and fields or the gaps between buildings, and of
    persuasive movements of air.

    In fact most of Ott’s works have a lot to do with wind. Among the daily sights and
    incidents that have inspired her are plastic bags, scudding across the road or caught
    against fences or in tree branches. She presents such moments and objects not
    quite literally, but as her title says, at a certain distance, as if partially formalized and
    distilled in the terms of an intuitive geometry. Each of the three dimensional works
    here is a kind of sketchy theorem, expressing the properties of an essentially
    ineffable event. Tuttle has remarked that, in terms of contemporary gallery
    installation, the wall and floor can represent the tension between the real and the
    ideal. Everything at exit except the floor components of Installation are mounted on
    the walls, but Ott’s semi-“ideal” realizations displayed here and there, high and low,
    have all risen from the floor conceptually speaking. They’re caught in mid-air and
    fixed in a reverie of formalism that refers to their motion in a state of nature -- as in a

    Pink is one of the more overtly beautiful combinations of color and materials Ott
    offers at exit. A translucent, pale pink half-shell of cast resin curls and twists as if
    turned by an intermittent breeze. It brings to mind a variety of intimate sights,
    recalling things as fundamental as skin or other bodily tissue, or as artificial as a
    nightgown -- as much or more than it describes runaway plastic. Wave-like ridges
    also convey an idea of gentle sound, a rustling in the mind that is capped by brightly
    colored pieces of paint mounted in the corrugated chambers of a strip of cardboard.
    These red and orange and green notes pop along the left margin, a little like jewelry
    cuffs mounted along an ear. They could also be a selection of bittersweet and other
    berries left on a bush beneath a cold autumn sky, or a handful of M&M’s – or nothing
    of the kind. Most of all they are the inside of a painter’s mind, on a walk through the
    thought of a landscape

    Ott received her MFA two years ago from Kent State University where she presently
    teaches drawing and painting. It’s interesting to note that her semi-sculptural, post-
    post minimalist works seem worlds away from fellow Kent instructor Darice Polo’s
    drawings, recently shown just a few blocks down the street in Tremont at raw & co.
    (reviewed in the Sept. 6-12, 2006 issue of the Free Times ). Polo’s meticulous
    graphite on paper renditions of family photographs explore issues of family history
    and the evocative power of photographs, creating a parallel world of archetypal
    imagery through effort and attention. Yet in fact that’s not at all far from Ott’s
    intention, in her attempts to recreate and, in a way, memorialize ephemeral incidents
    that might ordinarily pass almost unnoticed. Ott and Polo also share – not only with
    each other but with a large number of artists at work over the past thirty years –
    deeply spiritual concerns. Nothing is too small, too fugitive, to be unworthy of use, in
    art as elsewhere in our lives. The question is only how to include these things in the
    hyper-text of human testimonies to the beauty of the world.

    Outside the gallery on opening night Ott looked up at a tree, already almost bare on
    a mild mid-October evening. A plastic bag caught in its branches pulsated in a slight
    breeze. No longer simply trash, it fluttered like the half-invisible spirit of a bird.
    Perhaps redemption is too ambitious, or pretentious, a project for mere art. But works
    like Ott’s clear the mind and soul for better questions about what ordinary things
    might be able to mean.

    [Cleveland Free Times 11/1/06]
Lorrie Ott, 2007, cast
urethane, string, paint