JUDITH OSTROWITZ

PRIMA MATERIA
 

November 5 - December 18, 2021

JUDITH OSTROWITZ: PRIMA MATERIA

November 5 - December 18, 2021

Airy Triplicity, 2017.jpg

Lola Shepard is pleased to announce PRIMA MATERIA, an online solo exhibition featuring paintings on canvas and digitized works on Plexiglas by JUDITH OSTROWITZ.  

The practice of Alchemy captured the imagination of its practitioners from late Antiquity through the 18th century and remains of interest today in the fields of psychology and spiritual practice.  Integrating philosophical inquiry with experimental observation to decipher the natural world, Alchemy contributed to the science we now know as chemistry.  Alchemists of yore were reluctant to divulge their secrets, so instead, they utilized coded language and obscure illustrations to convey meaning.

 

In PRIMA MATERIA, Judith Ostrowitz draws on Alchemical and related Qabalistic traditions as a springboard for her symbol-laden, visionary landscapes.  Showcasing sixteen distinct compositions on canvas and Plexiglas, along with five studies, each work is a visual representation of some aspect of personal transformation and self-realization.  

Study for Estuary, 2019.jpg

 

ESTUARY, 2019

Theater of the Elements, 2016.jpg

THEATER OF THE ELEMENTS, 2016

Moonstones and Air, 2021.jpg

 

MOONSTONES AND AIR, 2021

Mary Prophet, 2019.jpg

 

MARY PROPHET, 2019

Seeds of Metal, 2014.jpg

In creating the large-scale, collage-like panoramas, Ostrowitz merges traditional iconography derived from Alchemy, Qabalah, and Tarot with contemporary objects from everyday life.  Manipulating imagery and media, the artwork is constructed from her own paintings, drawings, and photographs, combined with scanned fabrics, stones, and other materials.  These combinations are then transformed in Photoshop and used as “cartoons” for her elaborate paintings or adhered to Plexiglas to create semi-transparent works.

Although many of Ostrowitz’s newest works are rendered on canvas, she has had a long history of working with Plexiglas.  The Plexiglas pieces are mounted about one inch from the wall so that natural light can pass through, resulting in works that appear weightless, as if they are floating on air.  

 

SEEDS OF METAL, 2014

Living Matter, 2021.jpg

 

LIVING MATTER, 2021

Mercury, Hot and Cold, 2020.jpg

 

MERCURY, HOT AND COLD, 2020

The Prepared Matter Attracts the Love of Heaven, 2018.jpg

THE PREPARED MATTER ATTRACTS THE LOVE OF HEAVEN, 2018 

Says Ostrowitz about her labor-intensive, image-making process: 

"I start by drawing in pencil.  I make detailed images that are relatively naturalistic, but quirky or other-worldly, and I combine or collage them.  Often, I add my own photographs of scenes or objects, a few found images, and then I play with the whole thing for quite a while in Photoshop.  Sometimes, I print parts of the image on fabric, twist it and shape it, and then photograph it again and re-insert it into the scene.  The composite images are then transformed again because I paint over them.” 

In this video, Judith Ostrowitz explains the meaning behind the varied motifs in the painting, The Prepared Matter Attracts the Love of Heaven

Rebis, 2017.jpg

REBIS, 2017

 

Ostrowitz’s fantastical landscapes often feature forest floors, canyons, or mountain ranges.  In her most recent work, the cityscape environment has also gained prominence.  She then populates the scenery with recurring motifs of animals, gemstones, and mythological creatures, deftly arranged on a flat picture plane.  At first glance, the disparate images of both the strange and the familiar may seem incongruous, but on closer view, the significance of each combination is revealed.

As Water, 2016.jpg

 

AS WATER, 2016

Airy Triplicity, 2017.jpg

 

AIRY TRIPLICITY, 2017

For example, the translucent Plexiglas work entitled Airy Triplicity depicts a group of mythical beasts framing a fluttering piece of fabric.  The animals embody the varying aspects and modalities of Alchemical Mercury, traditionally associated with the element of air. 

 

Ostrowitz states:

“The serpent is the cool, moist Mercury; the Phoenix is its hot and dry aspect.  Between them, the head of a bird is directly affected by the resulting energy or electricity that they generate.  Its consciousness is literally “plugged in” to this Mercurial energy, the quick-moving subtlety of thought. Behind the yellow-orange ovoid, the mythological figure of Mercury can be faintly seen, holding the caduceus wand.”

Foremost of the Westerners, 2019.jpg

 

FOREMOST OF THE WESTERNERS, 2019

The panoramic painting on canvas entitled Foremost of the Westerners is constructed in reference to death and rebirth. The phrase ‘Foremost of the Westerners’ was an epithet used to refer to Osiris, the mythological Egyptian god of the underworld.  The scene takes place in a canyon.  On the far right of the picture plane, a phoenix is shown whole, and to its left are its dismembered parts.  On the bottom left of the work, the artist inserts objects from contemporary life - a traffic light and a construction steam pipe, a symbol of Plutonic force, released from the depths of the earth.  Here the artist emphasizes the notion that the ‘mythological’ can be viewed in everyday life.

LORES_Study for Form, Radiance, Song, 2019. Acrylic paint, paper collage materials, and ar

 

STUDY FOR FORM, RADIANCE, SONG, 2019

The study, Form, Radiance, Song relates to the alchemical idea of ‘the fixing of the volatile’.  In other words, the elevation of matter.  Hovering in mid-air, against the backdrop of Lower Manhattan, sits a large mountain and an amethyst stone.  The two objects, the mountain and the crystal, have been made ‘volatile’, signifying a victory over the idea of limitation.  Encircling the amethyst stone are three bird heads--two hens and one penguin.  As they are flightless birds, perhaps they indicate the resilience and adaptability needed for this transcendent endeavor.    

LORES_Study #1 for Eclipse, 2018. Acrylic paint, paper collage materials, & archival ink o
LORES_Study #2 for Eclipse, 2018. Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas. Image7.5 x 9.5

 

STUDY #1 FOR ECLIPSE, 2018

Acrylic paint, paper collage materials, and archival ink on canvas

Image: 7.5 x 9.5 in. / Mat: 14 x 16 in.

 

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STUDY #2 FOR ECLIPSE, 2018

Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas

Image: 7.5 x 9.5 in. / Mat: 14 x 16 in.

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Study for Mary Prophet, 2019.jpg

 

STUDY FOR MARY PROPHET, 2019

Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas

Image: 9 x 12.25 in. / Mat: 15 x 18.25 in.

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Study for Estuary, 2019.jpg

 

 STUDY FOR ESTUARY, 2019

Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas 

Image: 9 x 13.5 in. / Mat: 15 x 19.25 in.

 

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EMAIL_Hidden Light, 2020.png

 

HIDDEN LIGHT, 2020

Acrylic paint on canvas

24 x 24 in.

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EMAIL_Mountain Pass, 2020.jpg

In the context of art history, Ostrowitz’s idiosyncratic visual style blends Neo-Surrealism with Narrative art.  She is a builder of worlds, skillfully juxtaposing two realities - the seen with the unseen.  Moreover, the epic quality of her evocative, multi-layered dreamscapes serves as the “Prima Materia”, the First Matter, in Alchemy, signaling the exploration of the psyche.

MOUNTAIN PASS, 2020

Acrylic paint on canvas

24 x 24 in.

 

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EMAIL_Secret Fire, 2020.jpg
EMAIL_Stones Fly, 2020 .jpg

 

SECRET FIRE, 2020

Acrylic paint on canvas

24 x 24 in.

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STONES FLY, 2020

Acrylic paint on canvas

24 x 24 in.

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ARTWORK LISTING

(Installations of all artwork are viewable at Judith Ostrowitz's SHOP)

Estuary, 2019.jpg

 

ESTUARY, 2019

Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas

54 x 80 in. 

 

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Airy Triplicity, 2017.jpg

 

AIRY TRIPLICITY, 2017
Digitized imagery on Plexiglas
44 x 66 x 1.5 in.

 

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THEATER OF THE ELEMENTS, 2016

Digitized imagery on Plexiglas

44 x 64.25 x 1.5 in.

 

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Mary Prophet, 2019.jpg

 

MARY PROPHET, 2019
Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas
54 x 74 in.

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Moonstones and Air, 2021.jpg

 

MOONSTONES AND AIR, 2021
Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas
54 x 70 in.

 

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Seeds of Metal, 2014.jpg

 

SEEDS OF METAL, 2014
Digitized imagery on Plexiglas
36 x 48 x 1.5 in.

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Rebis, 2017.jpg

 

REBIS, 2017
Digitized imagery on Plexiglas
48 x 56 x 1.5 in.

 

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Theater of the Elements, 2016.jpg

 

THEATER OF THE ELEMENTS, 2016
Digitized imagery on Plexiglas
44 x 64.25 x 1.5 in.

 

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As Water, 2016.jpg

 

AS WATER, 2016
Digitized imagery on Plexiglas
41 x 60 x 1.5 in.

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Mercury, Hot and Cold, 2020.jpg

 

MERCURY, HOT AND COLD, 2020
Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas
50.5 x 84 in.

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Living Matter, 2021.jpg

 

LIVING MATTER, 2021
Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas
54 x 89 in.

 

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The Prepared Matter Attracts the Love of Heaven, 2018.jpg

 

THE PREPARED MATTER ATTRACTS THE LOVE OF HEAVEN, 2018 
Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas
53 x 91 in. 

 

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LORES_Study for Form, Radiance, Song, 2019. Acrylic paint, paper collage materials, and ar


STUDY FOR FORM, RADIANCE, SONG, 2019
Acrylic paint, paper collage materials,
and archival ink on canvas
Image: 7.5 x 9.5 in. / Mat: 14 x 16 in.

BUY NOW

Foremost of the Westerners, 2019.jpg

 

FOREMOST OF THE WESTERNERS, 2019
Acrylic paint and archival ink on canvas
47 x 108 in.

 

BUY NOW

BIOGRAPHY

Judith Ostrowitz lives and works in New York City.  Ostrowitz holds a Ph.D. in Art History from Columbia University, an M.A. in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research, and a B.F.A. in Painting from Pratt Institute.  She has exhibited her work at Denise Bibro Fine Art, Open Center Gallery, Porter Contemporary, Hudson Guild Gallery, the Sculpture Center, Kiana Malekzadeh Gallery, and others.  This is Ostrowitz’s second solo exhibition with Lola Shepard.

As an art historian, Judith Ostrowitz has worked as an adjunct faculty at Columbia University, Barnard College, The City College of New York, New York University, and Yale University.  She has developed curatorial projects for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, The Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, The Newark Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  Ostrowitz is the author of Interventions: Native American Art for Far-Flung Territories (2009) and Privileging the Past: Reconstructing History in Northwest Coast Art (1999), as well as numerous articles about Native American art.