On the Cover: Robert Otto Epstein | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
Pin It

On the Cover: Robert Otto Epstein 

click to enlarge Robert Otto Epstein, Untitled Zigzag 2016, acrylic on hand-gridded panel - PHOTO BY: JASON MANDELLA
  • Photo by: Jason Mandella
  • Robert Otto Epstein, Untitled Zigzag 2016, acrylic on hand-gridded panel

Robert Otto Epstein didn't plan to be an artist. He studied political science at the University of Pittsburgh and later law in the UK. "I imagined myself becoming a writer. I went through a creative existential crisis and got tired of not being able to produce through writing so I stumbled upon visual art," says Epstein.

He arrived at the decision to paint patterns, like becoming an artist, by happenstance. After ordering a vintage knitting kit from eBay on a whim, he became entranced with the gridded instructions. Epstein then started to create his own grids. He plans all of his grid-based works out in advance, before he draws or paints any pattern. Using his bare hands and Photoshop, Epstein lays out the pattern. "I draw out a grid, or in this case, zigzags. It's an abstract extension of my writing. The line is the act of writing and the color put in is the content or whatever I am trying to communicate," Epstein says. When he paints, he uses no tape, in order to give his work a more organic feeling.

When he wants to oppose his pragmatic nature, Epstein employs chance. Instead of strategically planning the grids, Epstein will roll two dice. The number on one die will tell him where to paint, and the other number what color to use. "I am inclined towards planning things out," he says. "This was a challenge to myself to be okay without knowing in advance."

The zigzag paintings, like the one on this month's cover, are a combination of both his methods. Epstein starts by drawing a shape on the spot, and lets instinct lead him where to go next. "I'm not overly careful of where my pencil line goes. Once I come up with the basic constellation, I meet the dots in a very obtuse shape. Then I kind of repeat it on the inside and the outside." Like the chance paintings, the zigzags paintings were started as a way for Epstein to test his capabilities.

He uses the same eight colors in both his grids and his zigzags—vivid `80s hues, similar to 8-bit video game graphics. When he wishes to paint portraits, he varies his color palate, but only slightly.

For Epstein, there is also a nostalgic component to his work. "My father is a retired mechanical engineer; he would bring home drafts of whatever he was working on and I used to pretend to make my own drafts of anything. Pretending I was doing something important, which I am still kind of doing now. Making lines, making marks."

Robert Otto Epstein's work is on display through September 15 at Vassar College's James W. Palmer Gallery as part of the group show "If Color Could Kill: New Paintings from New York City." A reception for the artists will be held on Tuesday, September 6, from 5 to 7pm.

Speaking of...

  • Portfolio Day for Student Artists
  • Portfolio Day for Student Artists

    The 16th Hudson Valley Regional Portfolio Day on Friday, November 3rd, is a great opportunity for young artists to gather feedback from professional representatives from some of the best colleges in the nation.
    • Nov 1, 2017
  • Robert Polito + Tina Chang: No Walls Here: Writing and Art along the Edges, Borders, and Margins
  • Robert Polito + Tina Chang: No Walls Here: Writing and Art along the Edges, Borders, and Margins

    Join poet, essayist, and Bob Dylan biographer Robert Polito and Brooklyn poet laureate Tina Chang at the Garrison Institute for a transformative weekend exploring new hybrid forms in poetry, literature, and the visual arts. (September 8-10, 2017)
    • Aug 24, 2017
  • Gardiner Art Crawl
  • Gardiner Art Crawl

    The crawl combines three Gardiner events over the course of the weekend of June 3 and June 4.
    • Jun 1, 2017
  • More »
Pin It


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Hudson Valley Events

submit event

The Skye Jazz Trio

Sun., Dec. 17

Times Square

Sun., Dec. 17, 11 a.m. — Classic a capella doo wop....

View all of today's events

Latest in Visual Art

Related to Visual Art

More by Leah Habib

  • Holiday Books Gift Guide 2017

    With input from local bookstore owners, Leah Habib rounds up a list this year’s good reads just in time for holiday gift shopping.
    • Dec 1, 2017
  • 6 Short Book Reviews: November 2017

    Take a break from family this Thanksgiving with this month's selection of science, philosophy, equestrian, and fiction books.
    • Nov 1, 2017
  • 6 Short Book Reviews: October 2017

    This month’s selection of books offer you the chance to learn about a World War II hero, a life-changing summer camp, and the racial struggle in America.
    • Oct 1, 2017
  • More »

Hudson Valley Tweets