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Art & Design

Tom Otterness, Frieze, 1982, Jesse Metcalf Fund

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Tom Otterness

gallery location WA401.SkylightGallery


Tom Otterness American, b. 1952
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.

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