I met Robert Otto Epstein a few years ago, while he was working on his 8Bitterized paintings and drawings. I was intrigued by the (as I thought) obvious connection to technology and of course the vibrant color palette, and I got to know him through a few conversations about his work and visits to group shows. Most recently, I was struck by his portraits at VOLTA in NYC. When I saw that his work would be included in a two-artist show at Hionas Gallery in Chinatown, I decided to reach out to him about a collaboration.
In chatting about his work, I found out that it references much more than technology. In his words, "When I was first painting, I randomly came across a knitting pattern magazine on eBay. So I started out painting sweaters, cardigans, jackets, and skirts. Over time, I noticed that the knitting instructions take on a grid format. Each square and each symbol represented a different color and that's how I got into the abstract form of painting and drawing." Basically, Robert was Artfully Awear all along!
When asked about his newest series of portraits, three of which are included in the Hionas Gallery show, he said he started out searching the internet for high-resolution images, and eventually landed on celebrities as subject matter, after exploring gallerists and athletes. The painting that I chose as inspiration for my jacket is based on a portrait of Olivia Munn. We both had a laugh when I told him how difficult it was to capture the expression in his painting - and he reminded me that each portrait naturally contains a likeness to its artist, so of course mine would have appeared different than his.
Instinctively, I asked him what's next, and he said he's very interested in pursuing wall-sized paintings. It took many hours for me to hand-paint the skirt and jacket inspired by his work, so I immediately understood how intensive the process would be to paint a grid on a surface the size of a wall! He also joked that perhaps a fashion line should be in the works. I'd wear it!
Robert's work is on view at Hionas Gallery until May 26th.
Photos by Kathy Paciello.