A row of trees hangs upside-down in one of Sabina Ott’s new paintings. It’s an arresting sight that boldly shadows a nearly invisible, upright landscape scratched out on the upper half of the oval canvas. This romantic work suggests that illusion is more real than life while reminding us that trees were one of the sources of Mondrian’s stringent abstraction.
Ott’s other paintings generally combine less harmonious elements, but they aim at a fluid sort of transformation or mind’s-eye unity. A mass of chain painted across four adjacent canvases looks rather like a giant brain. A similar mass is enmeshed with trees in another work where it might be read as foliage. In the most austere painting, a proper still life of bottles and other containers calmly balances two plain panels. Collectively, the work still seems rather tentative, but the organic feel of these “Material Fictions” and Ott’s obvious love of painting mollify arbitrary juxtapositions. (Pence Gallery, 908 Colorado Ave., to June 25.)