David Ostrowski's large scale paintings are often monochrome and minimalist, with a single spray-painted line or rectangle slab of paint occupying a small section of an otherwise empty canvas. The Cologne-based artist abandons painterly codes in an attempt to analyse the nature of painting, and to visualise emptiness and nothingness, or the improbable. Ostrowski studied at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf—under Albert Oehlen and Rosemarie Trockel—between 2004 and 2009, and has been exhibiting since 2006.
Ostrowski's iconography has undergone significant changes over the course of his career. Das Goldene Scheiss (The Golden Shit), an early work of 2004, depicted a boy with a rolling pin next to a white van against an abstract background. The title, which he reused for a 2014 exhibition at Almine Rech in Paris, satires the double nature of painting and by extension art itself: gold or 'art' on one hand, but easily 'shit' on the other. Since then, the artist has completely abandoned figuration, opting instead for abstract shapes and minimal colour palettes. He favours red, blue, black, green, and yellow, despite his indifference verging on dislike of them for their banality—'Everyone uses blue', he once remarked—and does so to reveal new ways of using it.
Although Ostrowski firmly identifies himself as a painter, materials other than paint make their way into his paintings, including lacquer, paper, strips of wood, newspaper, and dirt. He stopped using oil paint in 2014 because it 'offered too many possibilities' in allowing him to correct mistakes. Spray paint now frequents his canvas. Ostrowski works quickly, painting layer upon layer, allowing the spray paint to create coincidences, errors, and mistakes. If the resulting painting fails to meet his standards he starts anew. The new painting is inherently different from its predecessor; there is only one chance to get each painting right.
The ongoing F Series is perhaps the most representative of Ostrowski's vast body of work to date: monochrome, large-scale, and empty. F series, which consists of numerous smaller series, dictates that the artist uses his right hand as he would his left—in other words, forget all painterly traditions and employ abstract non-motifs and repetitive movements to contemplate painting's nature. His use of emptiness and abstract shapes may recall Robert Rauschenberg's White paintings of 1951 or works by the post-war French abstract artist Martin Barré. Conceptually however, Ostrowski rejects the notion of the canvas as a space for self-expression. Rather, the canvas is a medium through which he enters into a critical conversation with painting.
His favourite letter in the alphabet, F, yields various names and interpretations. F stands for Foot, as seen in an episode of series F (Even the most beautiful woman ends at her feet) which was derived from the artist's obsession with women's feet. F also stands for Failure, which alludes to his use of spray paint to consciously generate mistakes; F stands for Flying and at times Ostrowski hangs the canvas from the ceiling to allow his paintings to fly. F also stands for Frame, which Ostrowski considers part of painting itself. He takes great effort to frame his works, normally using simple baseboards that he paints himself. Sometimes he leaves them unframed such as those in the series Outline Paintings, subtitled F (A thing is a thing in a whole which it's not). For Ostrowski, F presents endless possibilities to be manifested in painting.
Ostrowski has been consistently featured in various exhibitions in Europe and the US. Selected solo exhibitions include To Lose, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Düren (2016); I want to die forever, Kunstraum Innsbruck, Innsbruck (2015); The F Word, Arken Museum, Copenhagen (2015); How Do To Things Left, Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2014); Das Goldene Scheiss, Almine Rech Gallery, Paris (2014). In 2016, he notably exhibited with his fellow Düsseldorf graduate and sculptor Michail Pirgelis in Nothing Happened at Sprüth Magers, LA. Ostrowski has also been subject to group exhibitions such as My Abstract World, me Collectors Room, Berlin (2016); You've Got To Know The Rules...To Break Them, de la Cruz Collection, Miami (2015); Beware Wet Paint, ICA, London (2014) and ordinary freaks, Künstlerhaus, Halle für Kunst und Medien, Graz (2014).
'What’s amazing is that in this climate, all these fairs—the Armory Show, ADAA, Independent—are the best they have been in years,' said Sandy Rower, Alexander Calder’s grandson and the head of the artist’s foundation. 'The dealers are just trying harder.'He was just off the lobby at Spring Studios, where Independent, as iconoclastic as its name...
Despite being good friends since college, and sharing a studio for a time, Cologne-based artists David Ostrowski and Michail Pirgelis rarely exhibit together. 'We each take on extremely different contextual issues in our work,' Ostrowski explains, 'and our working methods couldn’t be more different.' A joint exhibition in...