On view this month at Galerie Perrotin, artist Oli Epp collects a range of works that mine a strange and otherworldly relationship with the language of painterly figuration and abstraction. Presenting a series of tightly constructed images that twist and warp bodies into playful new iterations, his works on view moving from human figures to animals to objects, always returning to the same deconstructive approach.
His compositions, first drawn from real-world observations, begin with a pencil sketch, which is then scanned into a computer. There, in the frictionless space of a user interface, he begins to dissemble and re-assemble the image, again and again according to the economic rubric of advertising clarity or the infographic. Yet, the hand drawing — imperfect and, perhaps, in its unsteadiness, vulnerable in its fallibility — remains. Although he appropriates the visual comfort of the algorithm, he also revels in its discomfort. In the studio, Epp applies layers of acrylic paint onto his canvas, producing ostensibly simple compositions, then uses oil paint for a precise rendering of objects.
Epp’s works start from a point of meticulous construction, and end in an equally intriguing deconstruction of the language of pop. Works like Dead Center repurpose the American myths of the cowboy as a gallivanting showman, while RED poses a figure vaguely recognizable as a composite of various celebrities, then twisted into an abstract series of elements bordering on the photorealistic. This constant negotiation of the cartoonish and the hyper-real makes for an engaging and intriguing dialogue in the artist’s work, always forcing the viewer to explore works from both a perspective of both meticulous assemblage and cultural representation, abstraction and pop wound into the same package. Epp uses his imagery throughout to both build narratives and deflect from the image itself, yet the viewer always ends up back in these riddles of construction, balancing figure and context to amusing, and often surreal, effect.
The show closes July 29th.
– C. Rhinehart
Galerie Perrotin [Exhibition Site]