Robert Otto Epstein has found inspiration in a variety of systems, from knitting patterns, to 8-bit color coding, to random chance. He has been known to produce both figurative and decorative work, and some of his pieces are a melding of the two. Though it is consistently linked to concepts of mass production and digitalization, rooted in deconstructionist philosophy, Epstein’s art is always made — at times painstakingly — by hand.
“This is Heavy,” a selection of Epstein’s recent works, is now on view at High Noon gallery. With these pieces, Epstein continues his use of patterned grids, while venturing into the realm of sculpture. Free-standing pieces mingle with a few wall-mounted works. Some are bright and multicolored. Others are black and white.
Upon walking into the gallery, the viewer encounters a cluster of items situated atop a workbench. These forms are three dimensional, yet feel flat. Head-on, their outlines resemble those of rounded vessels and measure 15 to 20 inches across, while the depth of each measures only 3 inches. Though made from concrete, they read like two-dimensional images that have been crudely cut from a material such as plywood.
Covering the entire surface of each piece is a thinly lined grid painted by hand. Each of the numerous, small quadrilaterals contain a single number, letter or symbol. These have been painted in a variety of colors on two of the pieces and in black only on the other three. A disorienting juxtaposition is created as the larger shapes of the pieces resemble objects from antiquity and their surfaces look like computer coding. Put together with the two-dimensional feel of these three-dimensional objects, the process of 3D printing may also come to mind.
Mounted on a pedestal toward the back of the gallery, “^[email protected] ” (2018) bears a pointier outline — its zig-zagging edges shaped like lightning bolts on each side. Inside these lines, an array of bright, solidly colored quadrilaterals paradoxically create a curving pattern across the piece’s surface that is similar to multi-colored wiring. Again shaped like a flattened vessel, this piece is also lamp-like.
“e%75fH8190z” (2018) stands nearby, a black and white patterned cuboid situated on the floor. Fittingly positioned at the gallery’s base, its whole mimics its smallest part, which again mimics the tile flooring on which it stands. Its curving pattern is similar to that of a fingerprint, bringing to mind the human hand and the act of making.
In his own words, Epstein understands “the pattern” to be “an act, a process, and a product” all in one. The end is not his goal. A self-taught artist, Epstein has looked to other outsider artists, such as Martin Ramir, Henry Darger and numerous crafters, for guidance. Unconcerned with academics, Epstein remains fascinated by the art of making and becoming made, one grid, one line, one square at a time.
ROBERT OTTO EPSTEIN: This is Heavy at High Noon Gallery
JANUARY 3 – FEBRUARY 3
106 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002
Images courtesy of High Noon and the artist.