Lothar Osterburg


November 13 – December 23, 2010

My work is driven by images which are burned into my memory and which persistently resurface.

I recreate these images by building small-scale scenes quickly and intuitively from readily available, found materials. Continuously undoing and re-doing, I allow my imagination to fill gaps in my knowledge or to completely transform the image. I then photograph the scenes, finally printing them as photogravures. Cleared of superfluous detail by time, and altered during their recreation, the remembered images take on a timeless, archetypal quality.

In the “Piranesi” project, I celebrate both the artistic process and my own lineage as printmaker. From a singular starting point – the memory of Giovanni Batista Piranesi’s Carceri print series of imaginary prisions – I developed my own imaginary space, which I document and assemble into a stop motion animation film accompanied with music by Elizabeth Brown. From the photographs of a model, I produce photogravure plates, which, inspired by Piranesi, I then rework into a second version. Like “Piranesi”, who was influenced by the Roman ruins in the creation of his imaginary prisons, I bring my own experiences and memories into my created world through a process which is similar to the constant transformations that cities like New York or Rome have undergone. Building everything with found materials and reusing my own sculptures, plates, video, and prints, Piranesi is the product of a continuous and multi-layered rebuilding of an imaginary world formed by glimpses of the past.

– Lothar Osterburg, 2010

Lothar Osterburg is a sculptor, photographer, animator, and a master printer in etching and photogravure. Since 1993, he has been running his own studio in New York City, where he has collaborated with Adam Fuss, Lee Friedlander, Laurie Simmons, and many more. A three-time MacDowell Colony Fellow, Osterburg was a resident at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Liguria Studies Center, and Anderson Ranch. His work has been shown at venues such as the Fitchburg Museum of Art (Fitchburg, MA), the 2nd Print Biennial at ICPNA (Lima, Peru), Moeller Fine Art and Lesley Heller Gallery (both in NYC). His work is in the collections of the New York Public Library, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Fine Arts Museum of Houston, among others. Awards include a 2010 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a 2010 Academy Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and two NYFA grants. He has taught at Bard College since 1999 and at Cooper Union since 2002.


About the Process

Photogravure is an intaglio printmaking process or photo-mechanical process known for producing rich blacks and infinite grays.

To produce a photogravure, a copper plate is coated with a light-sensitive gelatin tissue which had been exposed to a film positive, and then etched, resulting in a high quality intaglio print that can reproduce the detail and continuous tones of a photograph.

The earliest forms of photogravure were developed in the 1830s by the original pioneers of photography itself, Henry Fox Talbot in England and NicÈphore NiÈpce in France. They were seeking a means to make prints that would not fade, by creating photographic images on plates that could then be etched. The etched plates could then be printed using a traditional printing press. These early images were among the first photographs, pre-dating daguerreotypes and the later wet-collodion photographic processes. Fox Talbot worked on extending the process in the 1850s and patented it in 1852 (‘photographic engraving’) and 1858 (‘photoglyphic engraving’).