arl Ostendarp’s schematic series of Kool Aid–colored paintings, collectively titled “BLANKS,” distills language by reducing it to the artist’s own initials and so devises an interventional relationship to both Minimalism and Pop. In each of the paintings (with the exception of the one in the gallery’s office), all 2014, the letters “CO” hover just above the bottom edge of the canvas, rising or descending like musical notes, and through this placement, creating a horizon line. Their soft-edged rendering conjures Dr. Seuss, as well as the alphabet paintings of Al Held and other initial-related associations, such as Cheerios, Cheetos, Claes Oldenburg, and CO2.
Here the initials strategically disrupted the paintings’ expanses of acidic monochromatic color in the manner of a Barnett Newman zip. In their wake was the shimmery aftereffect of the mauve lettering on the pale tomato-soup-red backgrounds of the five paintings in the gallery’s front room, in tandem with the sensation of a “call of the wild,” a sort of vibrating hum in the sweep of an empty landscape. The letters looked gently chewed, like flattened wads of bubble gum. In the painting in the gallery’s office, “CARL” was spelled out in its entirety; previous “signature” paintings have denoted “By Me” and “Myself,” all letters and words functioning cogently as abstraction as well as literal notations.
A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 120.