“David Ozersky, my father, thought about food a lot,” writes Josh Ozersky in A Solitary Man, his essay in issue #160 about his father’s connection with food, and the energetic, expressionistic paintings of chefs that sprang from that passion. “He wasn’t frantic and feral about it like I was, but we shared a deep common feeling on the subject, one of our few such bonds. My father, a brilliant but melancholy man, loved to eat, but I believe he took more pleasure in talking about eating. He would talk about his last meal while eating the current one, and soon his talk would turn to the subject of where we ought to eat next.” Paintings by David Ozersky; captions by Josh Ozersky.
This is my favorite of my father’s chef paintings; it was done in the mid 1990s, at a time when he was at his most confident, as I believe it shows. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky La Lecon was one of his most light-hearted paintings; it also reflects his romance with classical French brigade cookery. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky This close up image, of an untitled painting from the ’70s, had some of the hardest lines and deepest colors; again, the old confidence. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky My father’s image of fine dining, in the ’70s, still included tuxedoed captains. I think he just liked them for the black they allowed him to add to mostly white canvases. The stooped and servile posture is great too. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky I don’t believe my dad was especially pleased with this one, which was painted in the early ’90s, and which I believe may have been incomplete. If he didn’t like the way one was going, he simply put it aside. What difference did it make? No one was going to see it anyway. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky Of the last paintings from his first period, this is among the lightest, most ethereal he ever did. The chefs have a wraithlike insubstantiality, which for some reason seems expressive of him. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky This painting is, I believe the only David Ozersky on public display. Chef John Tesar of Spoon restaurant in Dallas stumbled across a random JPG of it and was so smitten that he planned to blow up the image and put it in his new restauant. He had no idea that it was by my father, and that I had the actual painting. I believe it was inspired by Jean Georges, whom the figure somewhat resembles. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky Another brilliant image from the mid ’90s; the postures are formal and the background abstract. I wish he would have talked to me about his painting—I know as little about it as you do. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky An early one from the mid-’70s; I remember we had it on the wall in Miami when I was 7 or 8. The looser style was characteristic of the time, when he was younger and had a freer hand. This is another work that I suspect was unfinished. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky One of his very last paintings; like DeKooning in his later years, he simplified down, paring the image to its essence. Probably the most stylized of my father’s chef paintings; the wavy lines and pastel colors are really atypical. To me this shows, in a sad way, how he might have changed and developed if he had had more encouragement, or an audience of some kind. He rarely spoke about the paintings, even the best of them, to anyone—not even to my mother and me. This one is, I think, one of the last paintings of his first period. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky I had never seen this painting, which has been in storage in Union City with the rest of his work, until I went there for the purposes of this article. I like how it contains both very stylized images like the huge tocque but also a very figurative one in the chef. There is no doubt in my mind that his face echoes that of George Gershwin, whom my father did a long series of portraits of in the last years of his life. Courtesy of Josh Ozersky