This week we welcome visual artist Jeff Ostergren. Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ostergren has been a practicing artist for two decades, exhibiting in locations around the world including Los Angeles, Vancouver, Canada, and the Czech Republic. Recent shows include “Perverse Furniture” and “Death Masks” at Artspace in New Haven, Connecticut, and the commissioned installation, “Science For a Better Life” at City Wide Open Studios, also in New Haven, which explored the chemical history of Bayer Pharmaceuticals.
He has screened work at Video Snack in Richmond, Virginia, Brooklyn, New York, and the Fikra Design Biennial in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Ostergren is a recipient of a 2017 Artist’s Resource Trust Grant from the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, and was chosen as a 2021 “Artist-To-Watch” by Ortega y Gasset Projects in Brooklyn.
Ostergren makes art about the intertwined histories of pharmaceuticals and color, infusing paintings, sculptures and videos with actual drugs and chemicals. A key concept that centers the work is the “pharmakon”, a Greek word that simultaneously means cure and poison. His work is infused with a wide range of synthetic products including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, energy drinks, sex lubricant, hand sanitizer and sunscreen.
He often references pharmaceutical advertising images resembling art historical works, particularly from the Impressionist period. These images of idealized leisure, urban parks and controlled nature still form powerful means of understanding representations of class, race, sexuality and gender.
His curatorial practice includes the well-reviewed 2018 exhibition “False Flag: The Space Between Reason and Paranoia” at Franklin Street Works in Stamford, Connecticut. In addition, Ostergren runs Tilia Projects, a periodic project space based in New Haven.
He earned a master of fine arts degree from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, in 2006, and a bachelor’s degree from Rice University in Houston where he double majored in anthropology and gender studies.
See more of the artist’s work on his website and Instagram page.