Magazine article Artforum International

Marsha Cottrell: Eleven Rivington

Magazine article Artforum International

Marsha Cottrell: Eleven Rivington

Article excerpt

Marsha Cottrell


A polestar is something that's the main attraction. And ancient technology: Visible to the naked eye, it aligns with the vertical axes of the earth's rotation, burning at due north to guide you home if your compass (or GPS) conks out. Because stars drift and die, and the planet spins and spins, the polestar's identity changes over time.

Astronomy came to my mind at Marsha Cottrell's strong exhibition, and not just because her works, with their gauzy orbs and crepuscular rays, invoke what's beautiful and abstract about the field, from early-nineteenth-century celestial diagrams to a view of the moon through a space helmet. Transient fixity as a guiding principle seems an apt description of Cottrell's inventive process.

I first saw the artist's work in an elegant group exhibition at the gallery this past winter. She was shown in the company of a number of distinct photographers, including Sara Cwynar and Miranda Lichtenstein, so I associated her work's effects with both the soft manipulations of Pictorialism and the experimental geometries of Bauhaus photography. (She has, in fact, described her picture creation as "the idea of turning the camera inward.") Cottrell's medium is hard to pin down. Using the computer quite literally as a processer and the keyboard as the source of mark-making, Cottrell creates and then alters images on-screen, publishing them via an electrostatic laser printer, through which she feeds different paper (typewriter, Arches watercolor, collaged mulberry) and even polyester, often in multiple passes. Each work, like a monotype, is both a unique palimpsest left to carefully controlled chance and a reproduction. (This process of repeated digital printing has been made famous by Wade Guyton in the past decade; Cottrell, who until recently worked as a production freelancer at Vanity Fair, has been experimenting with it since 1997.)

Cottrell's first solo show at Eleven Rivington was split between its two galleries. On Chrystie Street, three clean, silver-framed clusters delineated separate series, with plenty of white wall in between, that captured the minimalist tone of the works themselves. "Aperture," 2014, appeared to depict a portal into a lunar landscape under six different conditions of gray dilation; my favorite series, "Interior," 2014-15, showcased the uncanny familiarity of invented black-andwhite museum spaces-c"m-De Stijl abstractions; closely wrought radiating lines emerged from an orb of bare page that seemed to glow in the seven works of "Spectral Sun," 2014. …

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