Brooklyn-based illustrator David Ostow is a man out of place. In his Huffington Post bio, which the artist sometimes contributes to, he refers to himself as someone who “just doesn’t get it… is totally lost.”

That sense of displacement is both political and existential in Ostow’s work, which goes a long way towards explaining his mix of Harvey Pekar’s mordancy with the more idealogical style of ’60s illustrators like Ron Cobb and Tomi Ungerer.

The identity crisis for Ostow is one of authenticity. He’s curmudgeonly about 21st century hipsters, a frequent subject, seeing them as an affront to the ethos he’d expected when coming to the city. Their stylized and seemingly carefree form of bohemianism is in opposition to the inner-torment Ostow himself feels. His politic, then, is naturally that of gentrification. No surprise that his best illustrations are architectural.

Ominous renderings of buildings, more expressionist and haunting than anything he’s done with figures, are seen in Ostow’s untitled skyline drawing (below). It recalls both Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and Brian Froud’s Dark Crystal storyboards, but is relieved by Ostow of its need for ideology. The structure is already a ruin, despite its sparkly newness, which suggests our best intentions are fraught with difficulty and compromise from the start.

Another cityscape, titled Hopeless Beach, combines the look of a Mediterranean marketplace with bits of Americanafrom a rickety Southern Californian pier, to a ferris wheel that juts out from the columned stonework. The whole illustration feels frozen, even its sunrise and the solitary figure on the distant pier. Rueful, sure, but the deeper sentiment here is that art can stop time, which is almost theological. (Brian Chidester)


Untitled Skyline


Hopeless Beach