Tom Otterness, American, Frieze, 1982, Cast hydrocal with latex paint; 381 x 184.2 x 20.3 cm (150 x 72 1/2 x 8 inches) height of post -from Handbook; width of lintel -from, Jesse Metcalf Fund 85.086
In Otterness’s Frieze male and female laborers progress around the doorway in stages of hefting cylinders and spheres up a ladder. Identical except for basic anatomy, the figures on the left side are an all-female workforce, while the right is all male. Where the two sides meet at the top, cooperation turns to conflict. These deceptively simple cartoon-like forms have roots in Otterness’s study of the human body in Renaissance, Indian, and Chinese art. This imagery recalls 1930s stylized portraits of workers in Socialist Realist art, while the use of intertwined bodies to create a decorative architectural element has precedents in the temples of ancient India, Greece, and Rome.