Marsha Mateyka Gallery
"A similar taste for modern poetry runs through painter Sabina Ott's new work (Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, November 21-December 19). Ott has said there is no reason to make art about real things, and hence the emblematic elusiveness of her richly thick encaustic paintings, based in part on the cryptic prose poems of Gertrude Stein, are decidedly anti-mimetic. Yet the density of Ott's layered materials calls forth a commitment to some complexity in the world. Ott may be thinking of Gertrude Stein when she works, but a painting like There was an o and the o was round recalls the early cubism of Picasso and Braque, incorporating letters and outlined forms into its playful space. The painting features such beautiful passages, of burnt black spills against fading orange-green on the exposed wood backing, a pile of wax like a whipped cream mountain melting into a reflecting pool decorated with yellow roses on a sprawling, murky yellow-green field. Ott's graphic repertoire, of brush strokes against broken grids and massive piles of chocolate brown encaustic like cookies left too long in the oven, suggests that her visual code may be highly self-referential, yet it is driven by an intense passion. In fact, Ott has always relished the Steinian double reading of the word "rose," which, when the letters are rearranged, spells out "eros" - i.e., the chaste/pure/decorative and the open/messy/sexual. But in some of these paintings, the erotic is almost zany - cheery red circles on mounds on pinky petals suddenly turn into a field of nipples, an erotic surrealism that is almost giddy in it's playfulness. When the literal dissolves, the hidden forces of the psyche come to the fore."
by George Howell