Oli Epp Asks "Don’t You Want Somebody to Love?"
Oli Epp is all of the good things in a painting. There is a little weirdness, a little how did he do this, a little play, a little introspection and something fresh with every show. His work is flat but not lacking in depth. That flatness is vital. It's the Internet and the post-Internet view of things, a superflat portal of information and visual language. And here he is, in 2022, a London-based painter pulling from the Summer of Love of 1967 and the San Francisco anthem of Jefferson Airplane's Don’t You Want Somebody to Love? to title his first solo show with Perrotin in NYC. It's all the good things, a flattening of time and space and visuals.
It's also a cross-generational call for love, togetherness and human connectedness. Epp is about connection, as he starts his work with pencil then scans into the computer to begin composing what will become oil and acrylic works. And you slowly begin to see the pop-culture iconography in these flat abstract shapes. Yankees caps, fake lips, street signs. Even the title of the show is a nod to pop. As the gallery points out, "It’s no coincidence that Epp was raised on a steady diet of Tom Wesselmann, the godfather of advertorial images, who cut-and-pasted disarmingly simple objects into monumental collages. Epp gravitates towards the Pop Art generation, who grappled with the golden age of advertising, as Epp’s generation, too, grapples with the golden age of the algorithm. Both artistic generations were charged with slowing down, freezing, enlarging, and sometimes miniaturizing the image — anything they could do to reaggregate an unceasing visual sales pitch."
Epp is channeling the generations but very much of the 21st century. His work blew us away when we started to write about his some years ago, and it feels like he is channeling a more concise vision now. "I think my work tries to reimagine everyday life through the spectacular lens of painting," Epp told me last year. As everyday life has evolved more into a hybrid of physical and digital, Epp has it all just right. —Evan Pricco