Cottrell works with a computer and an electrostatic laser printer, which she began experimenting with as drawing tools in 1998, in the context of long hours as a magazine office freelancer. At that time typing and manipulating elements of written language like commas, brackets, and periods, Cottrell developed a body of intimately scaled works that reference written language, musical notation, nature, and architecture. Sifting through a growing body of digital documents by means of a multidirectional and improvisational process, Cottrell would insert elements of her “drawings” into this archive, the reorganized and recycled debris finding its way into new images. Over time, the introduction of lines, shapes, and other vector-based elements resulted in “virtual rubble,” a massive accumulation of raw material manifest in dense compositions, mark-splattered pages, and cosmos-like arrangements of white marks and lines, a reversal which highlighted the toner’s rich carbon and iron-oxide black.
At the 11 Rivington Street location, Cottrell presents two works that encapsulate and highlight her singular practice. Index 1 (Presence of Nature) consists of a group of ten unique drawings made between 1998 and 2013. Representative of various bodies of work, the piece reflects on movement, stillness, scale, vastness, and illumination. In the intimacy of these images exists an element of longing from the confines of the desk. Contemplation and inner life are foregrounded. Cottrell pushes into the physically awkward limitations of clicking and sliding with keyboard and mouse, seeking a sense of fluidity, physicality, and touch while creating images that move freely between abstraction and subtle pictorial space. Direct prints on letter, legal, and tabloid size sheets of handmade paper or mylar are sometimes developed in multiple passes or manipulated outside the computer by smearing or layering. Taking its title from Rimbaud’s Illuminations, the second piece, The Deliciousness of Staying Still, is a large-scale work comprised of 142 edge-to-edge pieces of 8 1/2 x 11” handmade mulberry paper printed with black toner. Amid the letter-size pages, one tabloid-size sheet contains a circle as large as will fit within its dimensions, and all is assembled by hand with bookbinder’s glue into a quilt-like formation according to the tiling of the document from which it is printed. The warm tone of the Japanese paper used in Cottrell’s very earliest works reappears here and is illuminated as a single, floating shape, surrounded by an expanse of potentially infinite darkness.
In the 195 Chrystie Street space, Cottrell presents tonal work on paper from three related groups. Her Aperture Series interprets the computer monitor as both a space through which the landscape is seen as well as a place where it is created. Each image is centered around a strong horizon contained by window-like borders, and a distinct quality of natural or artificial light emanates from each work. These, as well as the Interior images—improvised meditations on light and space charged with psychological intensity—develop slowly and gradually on the paper via multiple passes through the printer while geometric shapes are incrementally moved on the screen. Also on view is Cottrell’s Spectral Sun series, determined in part by the printer’s attempt to interpret densely knit files of rotated lines. The term “spectral” refers to the seemingly random offsets, lines, and glowing forms that do not appear onscreen. In all, the imagery of Cottrell’s works can be read not as landscapes or interiors in the literal sense, but as internal and visionary states amid the everyday.