Robert Otto Epstein: Ron from Ronkonkoma
September 10 - October 16, 2016
Amar'e, 2015, acrylic and pencil on paper, 30"x22"
"Ron from Ronkonkoma, you're next on the Michael Kay Show." " Hi Michael. Hi Don. First time long time. Thanks for taking the call." "You got it." "Do you think the Knicks will win the championship this year? I'll hang up and listen."
Simuvac Projects is pleased to present Robert Otto Epstein: Ron from Ronkonkoma, a solo exhibition comprised of paintings from three series that each deconstruct contemporary notions of sports stardom and marketing. The title of the exhibition is pulled from an exchange overheard by Epstein while listening to sports talk radio in his studio. Epstein is interested in these programs because of their hyper-analytical and seemingly endless discussions around ‘who’s number one.’ The radio hosts and callers are both sentimental and fiercely opinionated—and yet all of this debate has no actual impact on the outcomes of the games.
The players depicted in Epstein’s basketball portraits have recognizable names. Their bodies are abstracted into hard-edged blue against bright yellow and pink backgrounds. Their facial features are painted slightly off kilter and appear cut and pasted. The curved lines of a basketball, a forehead, or a bicep add a slight hint of volume to an otherwise flattened plane. Jerseys emblazoned with team names provide the primary source of context and help indicate each player’s identity, as well as signify their transformation from athlete to icon.
Epstein’s baseball card series translates romantic and pre-digital means of collecting informational snapshots of one’s favorite players into digital fields of abstracted shortcuts and cues. His source material is web-based images of mass-produced player cards on which baseball idols are captured swinging the bat in an exaggerated contrapposto pose or pressing their hands into leather gloves. They communicate a rugged charm and a promise to turn a pack of cards into a nest egg and a lifetime of memories.
Epstein begins his cards (14 x 11inch wood panels) in Photoshop where he places a grid over the image before inserting representational color squares. Finally, he draws the grid onto the panel and uses his computer blueprint as an instructional key for painting. When completed, small squares of colors combine to create pixelated abstractions in which unrecognizable baseball icons hover somewhere between the pre and post analogue—stimulating the viewer to translate digital information into nostalgic adoration.
ROE's grid based portraits combine elements of both his basketball player portraits and baseball card paintings and become a commentary on age-old marketing campaigns targeting the gluttonous male appetite. The series makes reference to what one may find in bikini-clad Budweiser commercials and Sports Illustrated Magazine swimsuit editions. By including these deconstructed female figures, Epstein rebukes the inherently chauvinistic and caveman-like structure of sports marketing and fandom.
Robert Otto Epstein studied philosophy and political science at the University of Pittsburgh and law at the University of Durham in the UK. He has shown widely in the US and Europe: The Hole (New York); The Drawing Center (New York); Morgan Lehman Gallery (New York); Geoffrey Young Gallery (Great Barrington, MA); Jeff Bailey Gallery (Hudson, NY); Jack Hanley Gallery (New York); Hionas Gallery, (New York); 99 Cent Plus (Brooklyn, NY); Mulherin + Pollard (New York); Harbor (NewYork, NY); Ada Gallery (Richmond, VA); Pierogi Gallery (Brooklyn); Outpost Artist Resources (Ridgewood, NY); Matteawan Gallery (Beacon, NY); Lorimoto (Ridgewood, NY); LIU Brooklyn (Brooklyn, NY); Voorkamer Gallery (Lier, Belgium); Airplane Gallery (Brooklyn); Kenise Barnes Fine Art (Larchmont, NY); Schema Projects (Brooklyn, NY); Parallel Art Space (Brooklyn); Drive-By Projects (Watertown, MA). Epstein has been featured in a number of publications, including: The New York Times, L Magazine, Design Sponge, The New Criterion, The Jealous Curator, Brown Paper Bag, Pattern Pulp, Juxtapoz, Dwell Studio, and The Wild Magazine. Epstein’s work will be featured in the forthcoming book, Pattern Studio, published by Chronicle. Epstein’s work is in the corporate collections of Facebook, The Big Human, and Fidelity Investments to name a few. Epstein currently lives and works just outside of New York City.