From the Artspace website: Artspace is pleased to present Death Masks, a site responsive installation of new works by mixed media artist Jeff Ostergren. Ostergren uses the death mask as a foil for creating figurative work that unites representations the human flesh with addictive materials of bodily consumption. These sculptures are composed of a variety of over-the-counter medicines and goods, including pharmaceuticals, energy drinks, snack foods, magazines, pills, bottle caps, and credit cards, which he indents, imbeds, and mixes into his clay, plastic and wax molds.
This body of work is inspired by the ancient tradition of death mask making, as well as the contemporary sculptural work of Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), and the Iroquois Native American tradition of clay pot making. Historically, death masks have served spiritual, commercial and scientific purposes.
In contrast to their traditional forms, Ostergren’s masks are quite abstract. They rely on the viewer’s impulse to anthropomorphize an abstraction and interpret the material as a face. Like the traditional forms, each mask is recognizably different and unique, what Ostergren describes as an instinctual play on “facial recognition software”. In this object encounter, the viewer might shirk back with repulsion, unable to deny the forces of engineering, marketing, and ingestion that target us in the marketplace and in turn make us into what we are.
- written by Sarah Fritchey