Review: Robert Otto Epstein at Mt Comfort 

***1/2
click to enlarge Robert Otto Epstein, "Double Trouble"
  • Robert Otto Epstein, "Double Trouble"

New York-based artist Robert Otto Epstein's show at Mt Comfort, presented by curator Casey Roberts, was inspired by turn of the century French and German filet lace patterns and vintage knitting and crochet schematics, according to the exhibition text. The show's title, Sleeveless Cardigan, is fitting because the work feels both foreign and familiar at the same time.

A cardigan without sleeves would be an apt analogy to the feeling of seeing these patterns in the gallery setting. They evoke familiar wintry memories of kitschy sweaters and knit goods, but are now rendered with paint on paper, framed and presented as fine art. They somehow feel less innocent than the initial patterns did, although this feeling is hard to place; it is augmented by titles such as “Double Trouble” and “Odd Couple.”

The “Jug” series of seven jugs depicted on wood pushes the feeling of strangeness further. Jugs are familiar, and the style of depiction is familiar, but the two are not familiar together, especially in a fine art setting. Epstein’s investigation of pixilated forms resists the urge to delve into 8-bit video game nostalgia and remains just out of reach, although firmly in the arena of largely universal memories. It is this ethereal yet familiar sense the art leaves the viewer that gives it its strength. Through Sept. 28 at Mt Comfort

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Charles Fox

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