Daniel Osterhoff, a central figure in Sacramento’s visual arts and electronic music scenes, died Saturday from complications following a cardiac arrest. He was 37.
News of Osterhoff’s death was a crush to Sacramento’s creative community, which responded in an outpouring of condolences and memories on social media. In a city that’s embraced an arts renaissance over the past few years, Osterhoff was the definition of a mover and shaker, whether painting in an energized style of urban art or DJing some of the city’s coolest dance parties.
Osterhoff’s visual art, which was deeply informed by graffiti culture and expressions of street art, was a signature force around Sacramento with its vibrant colors and emotive imagery. Osterhoff was also a master with lettering and often hired by local businesses, such as Anthony’s Barbershop, to give their business facades the maximum visual pop.
And when it was time to party, the crowds flocked to clubs when Osterhoff was DJing. Under the somewhat brash moniker “DJ Whores,” Osterhoff specialized in electronic music and other cutting-edge sounds that were otherwise difficult to discover around Sacramento.
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“He was a rare person, a true tastemaker,” said Clay Nutting, co-founder of M5 Arts and organizer of Art Hotel and ArtStreet. “Any scene would be lucky to have him, but we had him here in Sacramento.”
Even if you didn’t know his name, Osterhoff’s work is inescapable in the central city. His sign work and murals, often done in tandem with Shaun Turner, can be seen at B-Side, Dimple Records, Insight Coffee Roasters, Dad’s Kitchen and more.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg posted on Twitter following news of Osterhoff’s death, saying: “Saddened to learn about the loss of Daniel Osterhoff, talented young father & member of our community whose art helped identify Sacramento.”
Osterhoff was born in Walnut Creek and graduated locally from Cordova High School in 1998. His father, Kurt Osterhoff, is an accomplished painter and signmaker, and his late-mother, Judith Gracier, passed along a love of art and record collecting.
He was a rare person, a true tastemaker. Any scene would be lucky to have him, but we had him here in Sacramento.
Clay Nutting, the co-founder of M5 Arts, the organizer of Art Hotel and ArtStreet
During the 1990s, Daniel Osterhoff lived with a series of foster families while his mother battled a chronic illness. Gracier died in 1997, as Osterhoff was developing his artistic skills and a affinity for punk rock and hip-hop.
“He was in the (foster care) system, but he didn’t become a statistic,” said Mary Buchmiller, Osterhoff’s sister. “He used his talent and skills and always looked out for his three little sisters.”
In one of Osterhoff’s most recent works, he created a playful but poignant mural with John Dozier for ArtStreet, a temporary art exhibit near Broadway that was attended by 32,000 in its three-week run. The work utilized a vintage lettering scheme, almost like it was an advertisement for a circus, which declared: “History Dies and Condos Rise.”
Buchmiller said that Gracier remained a key influence for Osterhoff’s art and music tastes. She was a fan of hip-hop and classic rock, and also guided Osterhoff as he learned the intricacies of graffiti lettering and styles.
“It was part of her that he was sharing with everyone,” said Buchmiller. “She loved classic cars and old-school stuff, just like him.”
Osterhoff met Turner, one of his closest friends and artistic collaborators, while attending Cordova High School. The two would later join forces on a series of murals that are now a signature part of Sacramento’s landscape, including an homage to legendary musicians that adorns Dimple Records on Broadway.
“When we met, he had long orange hair and a Fugazi T-shirt, and I knew right away we’d be friends,” said Turner, who’s also known as Shaun Burner in Sacramento art circles. “He’s always been a connoisseur of music and art, and I learned so much from him. He put a lot of practice and work into his craft, and you can see that in his typography and sign work, and even as far as being a DJ.”
As a DJ, Osterhoff was initially known as “Dan O” and debuted in Sacramento’s underground electronic music scene in the late 1990s. He specialized in such bass-heavy genres as jungle, dubstep, grime and other forms of wall-rattling music that didn’t often get spun in Sacramento. Osterhoff was also instrumental in bringing maverick musical artists to the city.
Daniel Osterhoff’s work and murals, often done in tandem with Shaun Turner, can be seen at B-Side, Dimple Records, Insight Coffee Roasters, Dad’s Kitchen and more.
Under the name DJ Whores, Osterhoff created a series of popular midtown dance nights at Press Club and Townhouse, including Grimey and Hump. Osterhoff’s DJ name reflected a sometimes cynical sense of humor, that he wasn’t a kind of human jukebox or the kind of DJ who’d simply play the latest hits because that’s what paid the bills.
“Musically, he was always steps ahead,” said Billy Lane, a longtime local DJ and close friend of Osterhoff. “He was the kind of person who’d ask if you’ve heard of a certain artist and you’d say, ‘Nope.’ He was always trying to enlighten people on music that they hadn’t heard before. He also crossed cultures and was friends with people in a lot of different social circles.”
Osterhoff suffered a cardiac arrest while at his home on Wednesday and fell into a coma. According to Buchmiller, doctors discovered that Osterhoff had an underlying heart ailment.
Osterhoff is survived by a 3-year-old daughter, Harlow; sister Kayla Osterhoff; and sisters Sara Buchmiller and Mary Buchmiller. He is also survived by his father, Kurt Osterhoff, and Ann Larson, the mother of his daughter.
Private services and pending, and a public memorial in Daniel Osterhoff’s honor is being planned.
“He was always bringing cutting-edge artists through Sacramento, which is no easy feat,” said Nutting. “But it was his passion, and we are all better for it. He was a tireless advocate for pushing Sacramento forward.”