Following from the Wotsit All About series that captured headlines around the world, James Ostrer and London-based gallery, Gazelli Art House announces his latest body of work.
After smearing his subjects with sugary coloured cream cheese and icing to explore the darker side of the fetishisation of sweets and junk food, his latest portraits are an amalgamation of celebrity icons, who seduce their onlookers through traditional and social media with their promises of success, beauty and glamour. Ostrer describes these works as ‘honesty portraits’, an externalistion of the media data that he has consumed day-to-day.
Ostrer explains, 'I am responding to the vast divide between what we are being sold and what we are actually getting. I’ve labelled them "Emotional Downloads", which stand as a reaction against corporately contrived icons, the myth bearers that we are increasingly forced to worship.'
False prophets and myth bearers
Among his subjects are those who Ostrer feels embodies John Updike’s dictum that celebrity is a mask that eats its own face, including Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. A number of celebrities feature in this series, including Harry Styles, Damian Hirst and Miley Cyrus. Simultaneously celebrated and criticised, Ostrer feels that many stars today represent the embodiment of success and the ultimate construction of false value. Ostrer says, he created the artworks because he wanted to underpin his own and our collective obsessions with the glorification of celebrity and its dark and seedy underside. Each work is titled Emotional Download followed by the number of searches that the subject has reached (at the time that the exhibition will take place) according to Google Trends data.
Donald Trump may not be the presidential favorite to win the election, but he’s far and away the most-searched candidate on Google. Ostrer states, 'The eyes of the world are on Trump which marked him out as my number one subject.' Ostrer’s effigy of Donald Trump comprises a honey blonde bouffant hairpiece, a real pig’s snout, actual sheep eyes, raw fish, crude oil, rubble that has been gold leafed, an inverted pig’s rib cage, a half eaten croissant and a mass produced high street suit.
Mask of fame or shame?
Tiger Woods also features in Ostrer’s rogues’ gallery of myth bearers and false prophets. His portrait is a face of stitched together, raw animal flesh, his features a series of emblems borrowed from his various contracted endorsements. One of Wood’s eyes is a Nike golf ball set within a latex vagina, the other, a Rolex watch. Prior to his infidelity scandal, Woods made around 90 million dollars a year in endorsements. Ostrer explains his reason for including him was prompted by a billboard featuring Woods smiling down on him wearing a Rolex watch. He says, 'I was irritated with myself for being seduced, even momentarily, into believing that buying a watch I can’t afford would make me feel happier. Especially by a smiling celebrity golfer who was pretending to be happy when in fact had only recently wrecked his family and work life through a pharmaceutical and sex addiction.'
Meanwhile, celebrity ‘icons’ of the moment, Kim Kardashian and Kanye will also feature, alongside a provocative effigy of Miley Cyrus. Ostrer explains that Cyrus epitomised what he terms 'Factory Faming', where young stars such as Cyrus and Harry Styles find themselves on a compassionless conveyor belt of fame. He believes they are churned out with little care and turned into commodities. He says, 'I see increasing parallels between that hyper productivity of factory farming and what I regard as the Factory Faming of talent and celebrity, with the primary focus being vast profit over all else.'
Ostrer says, 'Cyrus seems to think she’s in control but is basically pornified by Terry Richardson.' Ostrer’s effigy of Cyrus is a face made from pig-skin complete with ox tongue arms, nose and legs. Sheep’s eyes and cow hoof horns frame a blonde mop of hair. She’s dressed in a fur coat decorated with multiple latex breasts. He says, 'The Miley-inspired Emotional Download represents the spectrum of change I have seen in the last 25 years where the portrayed ideals of female fame and sex used to be defined by a fur coat, some diamonds and a bit of flesh showing here and there to the now pneumatic pornification of women, perpetuating the apparent need to insert more and more silicon in various parts of their body and faces while removing all their natural "fur".'
Ostrer explains, 'The body of work is a group of portraits that start to portray a more honestly skewed version of what is fed to us. Kinda like if there was an algorithm that imbedded into our emotional hard drives, corrupted the intended message from the advertising world and then factored in a more authentic reality.'