First solo exhibition by Oli Epp, which debuted at Perrotin Gallery in New York, included new works that throb with conflicting emotions. The exhibition’s name, Don’t You Want Somebody to Love?, is borrowed from the 1960 psychedelic folk classic by Jefferson Airplane and wonderfully encapsulates the need for interpersonal connection in the contemporary world.
Epp, who was born in 1994 in London, approached adulthood just as the Internet was starting to take off. His artworks start with a pencil sketch that is then scanned into a computer and are initially inspired by observations of the actual world. There, in the frictionless environment of a user interface, he starts to disassemble and reassemble the image repeatedly in accordance with the commercial standard of infographic or advertisement clarity.
In his studio, Epp starts by painting his canvas in layers using acrylic paint to create deceptively straightforward compositions. Epp then precisely renders figures using oil paint. Both the layers of a Photoshop file and the sublime quality of Donald Judd’s Stacks are reminiscent of this stacking, or deliberate accumulation.
A Yankees cap, a nameplate necklace, and a solitary burning cigarette are among Epp’s selection of artifacts, which are held in a certain amount of cultural regard. And occasionally, these items aren’t just things; they may also be human parts, like a bulging crotch or a grin covered in lipstick.
Oli Epp is very aware of how, like weeds, pictures spread and flourish. Epp is drawn to the pop art generation because they struggled with the golden period of advertising, much as his generation struggles with the algorithmic age. Both creative eras were tasked with reassembling an ongoing visual sales pitch by slowing down, freezing, expanding, and occasionally miniaturizing the imagery.
We are pushed to stare directly ahead at RED, the centerpiece of the show, a large-scale, tight crop of a red-haired lady who confronts us with an enigmatic lip-bite. In Epp’s art, things take the place of interiority and self-hood with his primary characters saying nothing. Don’t You Want Somebody to Love?, which runs through July 29th, seems to be a question that Epp is posing to our virtual selves and acknowledges our error in mistaking someone for something like we all have done.