Monday, January 28, 2008

Gilded Splinters

Friday night was the opening of "Seen - Unseen": paintings and sculptures by John Otte from 1982-2007 at whitespace gallery.

"Untitled (Luncheon on the Grass)" 1990 Silkscreen on paper

The show is a solid grouping of abstract works, each an investigation into materials, ranging from rare woods to painting, collaging, and printing. Otte's work is often a response to art history, an evaluation or reference to past influences - experiments on the two-dimensional surface.

"Untitled (Nerve Net)" 2007 Latex, ink, metallic spray paint on panel

Otte, who has also spent a considerable amount of time as a DJ, is greatly influenced by music and refers to this show and particular pieces as "remixes."

Shana Robbins was dueling Iphone pictures with Jody and another guy whose name I can't remember.

This is Shana's bulldog. What a great shot. This makes me think I may need an Iphone in order to start showing off pictures of my new pup.

What's Jody got on his phone? Sick!

"Untitled (Brazilian Monument)" 2006 Texas ebony and cocobolo rare wood

Back to the art, as this blog is suddenly in danger of becoming trashy, Otte's included two sculptures in the show that were a continuation of his approach to the two-dimensional work. The sculptures were bold, simple gestures, again emphasizing the mark of the artist.

The highlight of the show for me was "Untitled (I Walk on Gilded Splinters - Je suis un grand Zombie remix)." Made in 2006, this piece seems to be a culmination of many ideas circulating throughout previous works. It typifies Otte's "remixing" of different elements, bringing a three-dimensional collage quality to the work, with an air of the "glorified object", seemingly sporadic mark-making, and deconstruction of the traditional frame. The surface panel alludes to New Orleans and the Southern Gothic.

And there is literally a splinter gilded in gold and nestled into some red Georgia dirt.

As a professional installer of art by day, Otte is very interested in the way artwork is shown within a space and there is no better gallery to interact with spatially than whitespace. Otte painted the revolving wall of the gallery to give the effect of wood paneling and angled out the second painting to alter the perspective. Walking through the show it's apparent Otte was as or more interested in how the show hung together than in any individual piece (with the possible exception of "Gilded Splinter").

Another example is this grouping of paintings and drawings ranging from '82-'07. The subtle displacement of the drawing in the top left corner hints at Otte's consideration of every detail in the show.

"Untitled (Thru the Blue)" 1986 Gouache on wood veneer

"Thru the Blue" was a great little piece in the grouping. Otte painted on the surface of an old cigar box top, inspired by the groove cut into the corner of the lid used to open the box. Otte painted circles of the same diameter to create the composition.

"Untitled (Garden State)" 1988 Silkscreen and ink on newsprint

Both because this show is covering almost three decades worth of Otte's work and because Otte's paintings are so conceptually laden while appearing deceptively simple, I think this show is easy prey for misinterpretation.

"Portrait of Tom Ze" 2004 Mixed media

And it doesn't exactly help the situation that Otte has a general dislike for artists statements and therefore did not write one to accompany this show. This does not mean Otte has nothing to say about his work however, on the contrary a simple question quickly leads Otte into an indepth and thoughtful explanation (or even better a debate) covering art history, NYC in the 60's, music, and politics. The layers of meaning in Otte's work suddenly become coherent and the viewer is left to reevaluate the way in which all of the work is interpreted. I say all of this to emphasize the fact that Otte's artist talk at whitespace on Feb 16th is a requirement for anyone interested in this show.

Later into the night Otte threw a Christmas tree onto the bonfire outside and the blaze went well over six feet. It seemed the most appropriate adios to the holidays.

The reflection made this guy look like he was on fire. If only he knew.

John Otte had the Mardi Gras spirit.

The show is up at whitespace through February 23rd 2008 with an artist talk Saturday February 16th at 1pm. Check it out!

It was decided to top the night off with some dessert. Christopher and I walked over to the new pastry place in our neighborhood, Chocolate Pink Cafe, to give it a try. Not bad at all. The cafe is fueled by a pastry chef with a fancy resume and stays hoppin well into the night.

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