Ori Ornstein is interested in the intersection of oil painting and video, and Symbiosis, his solo show at Crawl Space, experiments with several possible meeting points. He pairs a painting of a dirty, dish-filled sink with video footage of a dripping faucet, and a painting of a man (Ornstein) jumping with footage of the same.
Four televisions covered in white paint, antennas jutting, correspond to the dominant tropes of pre-20th-century oil painting: the portrait, the nude, the landscape, and the still-life. Ornstein executes his compositions directly on the screen, exposing swatches of televised images by leaving small passages of the glass unpainted. Each machine is tuned to a channel, the content dictated by network programming.
In the still-life, the cutout portion is the label on a bottle. In the nude, it's the male model's genitals; in the landscape, it's the horizon line. I happened to see the sort of macho action sequence popular in crime dramas in place of a penis, but in all three cases, neither the random content nor twinkle of the TV's pixels added much to the painting, or vice versa.
Ornstein's self-portrait-on-TV, on the other hand, is a fertile, formal blend of paint and light. More densely painted than the other television pieces, the moving image seeps through tiny cracks and fissures. Ghostly shapes—perhaps a car, a kite, or a candy bar—crawl across the artist's cheeks and eyes, and as the screen changes, different colors and qualities of light ring his features.
Painting and video can intersect in any number of ways, but so can painting and falling down on the sidewalk. Ornstein's work reveals a classical training, and he seems to have a more natural vocabulary for painting. He's most successful at setting video in the service of painting, not treating the two as equals.