“The Consequence of Small Decisions” is a curious and bright selection of Cassandra Ott’s most recent series of hand-painted, abstract collages and mixed media work.
Currently showing at Pausa Art House (19 Wadsworth St.), Ott’s pieces utilize repetition and structure to visualize the winding, often invisible paths we take to arrive at a decision.
Her method of meditative painting and arranging particular shapes into playful, structured configurations, refuses the chaos of automatism and emphasizes pattern and form, producing well-balanced and lambent compositions. Repetition and organization are consistent occurrences in her work, with natural shapes like leaves, teardrops and petals becoming the dominant forms in the show.
While each piece is different, there’s a bit too much that feels familiar, either from the repetitiousness of shapes or the rigidity of design. Most of the pieces feel like variations on two themes, sapping some of the energy from the clear creativity and kaleidoscopic vision Ott brings to her work. As a whole, “The Consequence of Small Decisions” feels busy rather than bombastic.
Along the wall, above the modest seating area across from the bar, is “Untitled (Trees),” a collage of mostly leaf cutouts, arranged in a jigsaw pattern, fitting in and suggesting different stages, sizes and states of trees all at once. Letting your eye dart from one colorful expression to the next, following it around the rough-edged paper it is placed on, the balance and tight arrangement of space surrounding each cut and angle becomes clear. The path through to the recognizable tree trunk near the bottom is a tranquil, wonderful trip.
Arranged like a deconstructed flower, petal and teardrop shapes in “Luminaria” are joined by painted dots of pollen that seem to be floating away from the center of the piece. While not so abstract, the colors and textures of this collage highlight the meticulous care put into the tiny hand-painted decisions of each piece.
In contrast to these larger pieces are a series of smaller repurposed vintage photos covered with ink, paint and colored pencil forms. Using modern colors, the similar petal and leaf forms appear vibrant and florescent in contrast to the faded sepia-toned stares from the original subjects of the photos. Perhaps they are bemused as to why these forms are appearing, since the photos seem to be merely a backdrop, an available canvas to the repeating motif of the collection.
For some of the pieces this is not so much of an issue, since the photos present interesting combinations of line and space. In “First Dinner Party,” colorful petal shapes emerge horizontally, almost like a pussy willow, across the faces and bodies of the eponymous guests. “Untitled (Woman Outside)” has colorful polygons created with a web of intersecting lines stretching across the photo. The color placement echoes the subjects directly, and seems to be in a sort of conversation with the photo, rather than an addition.
All of the pieces in “The Consequence of Small Decisions” are well executed, colorful and interesting, evoking a sunny positivity that approaches twee but does not reach into joy. Ott’s colorful, discreet work lands somewhere in the calm center of those twin storms.
What: “Cassandra Ott: The Consequence of Small Decisions”
When: Through April 30
Where: Pausa Art House, 19 Wadsworth St.
Cost: Free, though there may be a cover when performances are scheduled.
Info: pausaarthouse.com, 697-9069