Opening: Otto Boll at Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Tipping into infinity
“One determinant of my work is my discontent with the established visions on the world around; it cannot be possible, that what we see is all we can see and will see. A new vision cannot simply originate from things perceived, cannot be achieved just by the synthesis of values drawn from previous experience. I intend to search for what I hope to find: The visible not yet visible; spatial expansion of thought and feeling.” - Otto Boll (in: Otto Boll (exh. cat.), Goethe-Institut, Houston (16 April – 28 May 1998), Houston, 1998: p.16)
In some aspects austere, Otto Boll’s work reveals a pared-down simplicity that produces an artistic statement that is at odds with the visual (virtual) atmosphere that surrounds us. Rather than being a point or an exclamation mark in empty space, the work can be seen to perform the function of a hyphen, a connecting bridge, which instills in contemporary viewers a much-needed pause or hiatus, a point of non-definition that oscillates in a state of flux. The work provides a much-needed silence, giving practice for the viewer to assume a state of release vis à vis the potential, the irresolvable and the unknown, providing a quiet point around which we can re-orient.
Otto Boll (°1952, Germany) is an artist who operates from an expressly minimalist sensibility. His works, acutely reduced forms of steel, hover in space, almost cutting through it. Suspended by barely visible nylon threads, these sculptures - lines drawn in space - seem to float, and inhabit the air overhead. Using 3 mm strips of steel, of which he sharpens the tip until he achieves a point so fine that its outer limit disappears, the artist is capable of shaping visual statements that linger precariously on the edge: the works oscillate between presence and absence, the seen and the unseen, suggesting both materiality and the void. The artist is thereby able to unsettle the viewer’s conception of solidity.
Articulating something which appears to be almost lighter than air, Boll invites us into a state of (possibly uncomfortable) contemplation. One needs to walk around and under the work - in line with minimalist premises - in order to attain a more “complete” experience of the sculptures. The works are in fact sculptural events that are activated by the viewer’s real-time multisensory perception.
A sense of completion is never achieved, however, since the hovering sculptures reside in a state of flux. One becomes aware of the dynamic equilibrium that occurs when an artist pulls off the dichotomy of bringing disappearance into focus. While the works at first sight appear to be essentially linear, the void or spaces they inscribe raise questions about the dividing line: where does a point become a line, a line a shape, and how exactly does a shape interact with space?
“My work - and sculptures in general - must be experienced first hand. They convey empirical values, i.e. they cannot be compared with anything but themselves. Only their proximity can bring about a pristine experience. Sharing space and time with them makes the experience unique: Sculpture demands our presence, especially in times when the "media" push themselves into the foreground, pretending to be "immediate". This leads to diminished intimacy. - Otto Boll (in: Otto Boll (exh. cat.), Goethe-Institut, Houston (16 April – 28 May 1998), Houston, 1998: p.16)
In fact these sculptures highlight both the void and the infinite by illuminating their limits, and by making these limits (im)perceptible. This creates an impossibility of definition and thereby the work, by its very essence, slips beyond our grasp, eliciting fundamental questions of phenomenology. The encounter between viewer and work - and the reflections on the edges of being and perception - occasions an expansion of both. The work thereby emphatically brings the viewer into a transition-zone between experience and conceptualization: the mind continues to draw the line where it has physically ended. The void is charged by this articulated absence. Are the sculptures physical lines drawn in space, or are they glyphs that gently punctuate the void?