Layers upon layers—Dear Lord! The endless procession, white and sharp as sugar, of Sabina Ott’s work, is practice as jawbreaker. The constant re-contextualization of mediums, concepts and the concepts which are intrinsic to mediums, raise old Marshall McLuhan—she so often works in cream, shades of the Valley of Dry bones—to venerate and destroy. Mediums and messages are playfully expounded upon, cut, draped, carved out, camouflaged and manipulated in such a way as to seem alchemical. It’s nothing less than fucking magic, transmutations physical and mental. Ott’s ability to tease brilliance from mediums banal—and this is the right word, tease, her genius fun—extends even to the conceptual.
Take, for instance, her exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, so beyond its trite inspiration, Dante’s “Divine Comedy;” her Aspect/Ratio show springs partly from something even more cliché: Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” the favored bludgeon of the detested first-year philosophy student. In Ott’s formidable mind and capable hands, however, the “Allegory of the Cave” is as powerful and revelatory as it would have been to his students; one enters Aspect/Ration via “always repeating is all of beginning,” a cave of Ott’s construction, fantastic in every sense, a space wherein texture and the preconceived notions of mediums are bent gloriously askew. Billowing formations, like a frozen boil of freshly wept lava, bubble up between sharp rocks and long, smooth, hanging stalactites and wall formations. With a hot electric wire cutter, she garroted the blocks and brought them to life with longitudinal slices across the surfaces and sprinting down the sides of the cavern a wonder of manipulation, mimetic erosion, achieving in minutes what would take nature millennia. It is breathtakingly beautiful, chimerical, beyond…until the distinct marrow-like markings reveal that one is ensconced primarily in, of all things, styrofoam. The exhibition that opens beyond the cave, chorales of texture hung from the walls, contain coquettish nods at the mundane materials which she has transmuted into beguiling objects. The barely there reflection of a mirror, slashes of safety-orange spray paint, prosaic materials and textures gathered and spun and masterfully, beguilingly, played into magic—a miracle, chrysopoeia achieved. (B. David Zarley)
Through May 28 at Aspect/Ratio, 119 North Peoria