Rachel Ostrow is a Brooklyn-based painter and printmaker. She earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from Wesleyan University, a post-baccalaureate degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and an M.F.A. in painting from Hunter College. She has had solo exhibitions at Planthouse (NYC,NY), 42 Social Club (Lyme, CT), Sunday Takeout (Brooklyn, NY), The Kenan Center (Lockport, NY), John Davis Gallery, (Hudson, NY), Saffron (Brooklyn, NY), and Todojunto Gallery (Barcelona, Spain). She has been included in group exhibitions in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Montreal, Joshua Tree, CA, Great Barrington, MA and Ballinskelligs, Ireland.
"Visual experience is often prescribed, codified and overstimulated. My paintings exist somewhere between what is recognizable and what is otherworldly or abstract. Gathering the forces of chance and nature, they capture moments where movement transforms into tangible space. They indulge in the mystery, uncertainty and changeability of perception. Forms fall into and out of substance, giving authority to the viewer’s imagination to complete the experience.
Painting with a squeegee, I unearth images by spreading transparent paint around on a slippery panel. I add paint with a brush and throw paint and mediums at the surface. Then, with varied speed, pressure and gesture, I draw over those marks with the squeegee. When paint combines under pressure from the rubber blade, it mixes based on its material properties. Oil paints are composed of different pigments and binders. When the colors are pushed together, they form detailed passages that are irregular and mimic the natural world.
The gesture of my mark is (somewhat) controlled, but the way the paint reacts underneath it is not. The paintings exist as physical records of movement, both natural and (wo)man-made. They embody the relationship between intention and chance, echoing the dynamic in our universe between order and chaos."
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the arts.
I grew up in Buffalo, NY and I have lived in Brooklyn since 1999. My first job in NYC was working at Harlan & Weaver, Inc., a fine art etching studio in Chinatown. I learned about all the techniques of etching and was lucky enough to assist many wild and wonderful artists while I worked there. My experiences with etching and the printmaking community has directly influenced my painting and all of my approach to artmaking.
What kind of work are you currently making?
Currently, I am making oil paintings and have been developing a method and technique of painting where I use a squeegee to push paint around on a smooth panel. I experimented with small alcohol ink paintings/drawings during the pandemic when I had to work from my apartment and didn't want the oil fumes. I also recently started painting on mylar to make 'cliché verre' (contact prints). So far, none have worked, but I love the process and hope to figure some out soon.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
For me, the better question is "What is a week like in the studio for you?"- I usually spend 2 days preparing to paint, one day painting, and one day cleaning up. The fifth day is spent doing all of the other stuff: computer work, packing work, organizing the studio and all the other little things. On painting days, I do nothing else. My paintings can only be made in one day while all of the paint is wet. If I don't make a painting, I clean the panel back to white at the end of the day. My process is extremely physical and I need to maximize the amount of time and energy I have in that one day. I need to be well-fed, well-rested and to not have any plans that evening so that I can maintain patience and focus while working.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
Lately, I have been listening to lots of audiobooks on the free library app (Libby). I listen while I mix colors and do all of the other repetitive studio tasks. Some recent good ones have been: Breath by James Nestor, and Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. In the past couple of weeks, the best shows I have seen were Ann Agee at PPOW and Becky Brown's work at PS 122.
Where can we find more of your work?
My website: www.rachelostrow.com
My Instagram: @rachel_ostrow
1) I have a two-person show called "Good Heavens" with George Boorujy up right now (August 1st) with an opening on August 7th at Gitler_& in Santa Barbara, CA. It will be on view through August 29th.
2) I have one painting in "La Banda", a group show at Tappeto Volante in Brooklyn that is open through September 26th.
3) There will be an exhibition of my new work opening on October 28th at Planthouse Gallery in Manhattan.