I love to eat - Kit Kats or cookies-and-cream ice cream. I need sugar like five times a day - Kim Kardashian
Gazelli Art House presented the commissioned photographic works by National Portrait Gallery Curators Choice, artist James Ostrer, from the 30th July 2014. The images, referencing icons of contemporary sugar worship, Ostrers imagined result of a corrupted globalization and increasingly dangerous methods of food production, occupied the glass facade of the gallery and spread over the ground floor. A glimpse into a post apocolyptic world which has been destroyed by mass production, we are encouraged to question the decisions that are made for us: Wotsit all about? James Ostrers (England, 1979) photographs of sugar adorned subjects allude to the history of primitive art, synthetic dietary sugar intake, and an irreverent twist on the absurd in which societal practices of ingestion oscillate into a nightmarish world of abject effrontery and nutritional disillusionment. The works are feverishly and painstakingly created tableaus with layers of sweets and foodstuffs being applied to a human subject, often the artist himself, which, when staged, are photographed and patterned for re-consumption through the distribution of photographic practice. Speaking largely on the twentieth and twenty first centuries dietary concerns and sugars uncomfortable place within this, Ostrers photographs conjure metaphorical allegories as Ketchup flows as tears down frosted cheeks and Kit Kats mouths bark back with menacing grimaces. This adornment becomes a mask of what we eat which then becomes entwined with a hyper-pop sensibility and an obsequious inquiry into the great volumes of sugar that flow through our bodies.
Much like Mike McCarthys or George Condos seminal works, the photographs form a bizarre pattern of tribalism and cartoon-like absurdity. They are rife with a sense of ritual endeavour and colour-saturated sensitivity; a palpitating nostalgia for the sweets we are presented with and the potential havoc they wreak within our collective bodies. The works become a catalogue of self- destructive behaviours, and are also managed in such a way that while transgressing themselves as odes to great works of historical art practice, they become re-packaged eye candy for uncomfortable consumption. They are bittersweet to the point of decay and emphasize much of our contemporary societys needs for synthetic glucose praise, and, in doing so, proselytize the image as a new catalogue of self-harming sugar worship.
James Ostrers work often tests the limits of the body politics in the ever evolving analysis of the western body, sexuality, and society. In 2009, Ostrer staged Customer Container; an installation in which the artist used photographs of himself taken by six different prostitutes under which the only condition was that they order him to perform as they wished. In 2011, his portrait of Nicky Haslam in Lucien Freuds chair was chosen for the Taylor Wessing exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. The artist lives and works in London.