Greg Otto




Drawings from the 1970s & 80s

Greg Otto was born in 1943 in Abington, Pennsylvania. He studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in the mid-1960s, and received his B.F.A. in 1969. In the same year he exhibited a drawing at the Newport Art Association annual show, and was awarded first prize by the show's judge, the influential New York gallery owner Betty Parsons. Otto exhibited at the Betty Parsons Gallery after this until the early-1970s, and later at her Parsons-Truman and Parsons-Dreyfuss Galleries.

Otto's work at this time was solely in pencil; thousands of minute, individual graphite marks worked up into dense, iridescent masses, or left as light, scattered flecks across the sheet. Otto was also working for a Baltimore television station at this time, and his days spent surrounded by the technology and machines of this business had a distinct influence on his work. The pulse of an electric signal shooting jerkily across a screen influenced the drawings of dark lines, moving in bisected links across the page, sharp pencil curls and flecks looking like static electricity crackling off the dark core.

Other aspects of this technology, such as the 'white noise' of a blank screen, or the random appearance of marks, also had an effect on his work. Some drawings are completely covered by thousands of tiny pencil marks with little of the paper showing through, which creates a calm uniformity of surface when viewed from a distance, but reveals a dense thicket of pencil lines when seen close-up. Others may have small and irregular light areas that appear to shine out of the graphite darkness, or edges that fade away like thinning clouds or smoke. Otto also created his drawings on a very large scale, producing similar abstract graphite works on primed canvases that measured up to eight by nine feet; works that are monumental in scale but still built up from the smallest of pencil marks.


Graphite on canvas, 1972, 7 1/2 x 10 feet

Greg Otto's work was exhibited widely at the time and was included in three exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, "Drawings USA" at the Minnesota Museum of Art (1973), and is in numerous private and public collections (click here to see the full biography).

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