James Ostrer: Wotsit All About? at Gazelli Art House
Gazelli Art House in Mayfair is currently showing an exhibition of photographs by James Ostrer depicting men and women grotesquely covered in sweets and junk food. As you may be able to gather, the work is about highlighting the detrimental effects of high-sugar diets and consumerism. The portraits are set against flat, brightly coloured backdrops and presented as archival pigment prints.
The photographs would be fine if they were part of an ad campaign warning against the dangers of Type 2 diabetes or a Jamie Oliver crusade against unhealthy school dinners, but in a fine art context the work just doesn’t hold up. It would be difficult to think of a less interesting way to convey the ideas and the work features the kind of glaringly obvious symbolism that we often see in street art (eg a scary looking Mickey Mouse-esque figure covered in sweets means consumerism/ capitalism/junk food = bad). Many of the figures have a distinctly tribal look about them, referencing primitive African art; however this doesn’t lend the work any credibility and feels like an arbitrary aesthetic choice with little relevance to the subject matter.
The people who would be into this show are the same kind of people who think that Banksy’s new stencilled image of a couple embracing while both looking at their phones over each other’s shoulders is “thought-provoking” or “challenging”. Fortunately for Ostrer and Gazelli Art House there are an abundance of these kind of people around Mayfair with more money than sense – a brief chat with the gallery clerk reveals that several of the prints have already sold (most of the pieces come in editions of five) with prices ranging from £1,500 to £7,500.
Ironically the show is all about critiquing our fast food culture of instant gratification, yet this is exactly the position this kind of work occupies in the art world – immediate and accessible yet wholly lacking in substance.
James Ostrer: Wotsit All About? is at Gazelli Art House until 14th September 2014, for further information visit here.