Artwork Title: Untitled (Notebook Drawing) - Artist Name: Lori Ellison

Untitled (Notebook Drawing)

Lori Ellison, 2002

Ellison’s incremental, interdependent shapes well up across the surface of a page or panel, their rhythmic patterns at once contained and unmanageable. As if determining their own course, they push in from the sides, out from the middle, ascending and descending and spiraling inward from corner to center — heaving, tilting and pulsing the picture plane in a slow march here, a mad scramble there. In her current [2014] solo exhibition at McKenzie Fine Art on the Lower East Side, Ellison is presenting 20 gouache paintings on wood panels and 23 ink drawings on lined notebook paper. While motifs are shared between the drawings and gouaches, the two bodies of work exist in distinct domains, one furrowed and creased, a progression of elements roughly scored onto the paper, the other a set of color-infused structures residing on the Apollonian sheen of the painted surface. Unlike Thomas Nozkowski’s 2010 solo at Pace, which included two parallel sets of paintings — the smaller ones on paper were made, according to the artist, in response to the larger ones on linen — Ellison’s related works offer no indication of which came first, the ink drawings or the gouaches. But it really doesn’t matter: each piece seems to arise from its own array of exigencies, with linked images more pronounced in their differences than their similarities. None of the works are larger than 14 x 11 inches, their modest size a deliberate decision to keep the works within what the artist calls a “humble scale.” In a brief essay included in a January 2014 interview with the web journal Figure/Ground Communications, Ellison writes: To work with humility it is better to strive for the communal if not the downright tribal; for wisdom in choices rather than cleverness; good humor in practice; and practice as daily habit. The words “communal” and “tribal” are of particular interest to the work on display, all of which is untitled and most of which was made within the last two years. The patterns Ellison employs have no focal point, and, for the most part, their multitude of components lock into an overall scheme in which the individual shape is relegated to a piece of the whole. There is no major or minor. Occasionally the images seem to allude to Islamic manuscript painting or Romanesque ribbed vaulting, whose intricate, dazzling harmonies of equalized parts imply both a spirit of community and the spirituality in community. ...Absorbed and compressed, Ellison’s images are what they are — leaving the artist’s hand for a permanent place on a piece of paper or wood, a dense fusion of volition and material that ends up as a self-contained object in space, a presence that insists on being felt. []
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