March 9 - April 27, 2019
Saturday, March 9th, 2 to 5 p.m.
Gallery Night: April 26/27
Work by Mark Ottens
Please join us in celebrating the opening of "Linger On: Mark Ottens" with a reception from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 9 at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo Street, FIFTH FLOOR.
An informal discussion with the artist will take place at 4 p.m. during the reception on Saturday afternoon.
Mark Ottens first solo show at Portrait Society Gallery includes early Chicago Imagist influenced work from his years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago where he studied with Ted Hawkins, Ray Yoshida, Karl Wirsum, Jim Lutes, Rodney Carswell, Julia Fish, Phyllis Bramson, and Kerry James Marshall.
Years later when Ottens omitted representational images from his paintings, he began making small abstract works that incorporated many layers of pattern and shape. Hints of this transition can be seen in his earlier body of work, in the front gallery, where he juggles snippet of imagery from cartoons, commercial products and magazines with isolated sections of triangles, squares, lines, grids and abstracted brush strokes.
Ottens begins his abstract jewel-like paintings with an initial layer of color. He then works his way through patterns by taping off section after section. A multitude of mostly geometric shapes and marks accumulates in layers – each sealed with gel medium. Some paintings might have 30 layers of pattern. What results is a viewing field that is at once dense and light, elegantly drawing the viewer into spheres with almost no worldly orientation or associations. These paintings do not look hand made. They remove evidence of their production. And yet, they are labor intense, embedding hundreds of hours of meditative focus. The care and attentive labor become an orientating factor in the work, offering a kind of assurance that they hold much more than what might first hit the eye. Ottens defies the definition of a painting: Each panel becomes object-like, not quite categorical, abandoning any self-conscious painter’s notion of the mark and its history, delving into some other place where the universe competes to make the prettiest possible cosmic dreams.
Ottens has also been making intensely intricate pen drawings, with the most recent ones combining figuration with excerpts of pattern from the paintings. In a previous group show at Portrait Society Gallery called “Drawn Out,” a six foot intensely limned pen drawing fascinated viewers with the amount of information it held. This drawing, like his others, is a travelogue of sots where information of one’s days, weeks, and months tumbles into tide pools and vortexes of lived vernacular clutter.
Regarding his turn to abstract painting, Ottens, combining references from Kafka and Matisse, says, "I think that I used to want the paintings to function as the pick to break the ice on the sea frozen within. Now I am making them more to be used as the comforting chair for the wearied traveler."
In Linger On, the paintings morph into objects and drawings, they drift from one portion of Ottens’ life when he was an MFA student in Chicago, to his current life in Oostburg, where he lives with his wife and two children. To Linger On, is to knit the learning and the experiences of our past into the far-flung fate of our futures.
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