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Marlborough Gallery Presents an Exhibition of Recent Work by Tom Otterness
Tom Otterness, Turtle in High Heels, 2010, bronze, ed of 6, 17 x 25 x 23 in. Photo: Courtesy Marlborough Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- Marlborough Gallery presents an exhibition of recent work by Tom Otterness on view from February 23 through March 26, 2011. Animal Spirits consists of over two dozen bronze sculptures, ranging in scale from small to monumental, that in Otterness’ inimitable style deal with themes of money, class and the individual’s role in society, and of course their eponymous animal spirits.

Often inspired by the figures of modern iconography – bulls, bears and bags of money – as well as those of classic fairytales – the Old Woman and the Shoe, the Three Little Pigs – Otterness’ subjects are instantly recognizable to the viewer. We think we already know them well. This allows the artist to make statements that are serious without causing offense, or to offer what writer Alan Moore calls, “hard lessons in reassuring tones.”

Otterness’ anthropomorphized and slyly playful figures have been internationally known for many years, but following the worldwide financial crisis of the last few years his sculptures Bear Riding Bull, Old Woman and Shoe, and Bad Wolf – a mortgage note in the wolf’s pocket as he circles the three pigs – have special resonance. We are lured into an automatic, unconscious acceptance of Otterness’ cartoon-like subjects – his undeniably cute Guinea Pigs on Fire Truck, sweetly maternal Mama Pig suckling her piglets and his regal Big Cat. We cannot help but be drawn by the seductive physical qualities of the smooth bronze forms and luscious caramel patinas of his Bear on Moneybag and Cash Cow. And yet as Moore notes in his catalogue essay accompanying the exhibition,

“Because these little guys have so often appeared in toys, greeting cards, cartoons – we believe we know them. They are so familiar they seem banal. This is the camouflage of Otterness’ art, its crucial cover for sneaking up on universal themes. Tom approaches the classic modernist objective through the forbidden door of kitsch.”

The result is a menagerie of complex and important works innocuously masquerading as a playful collection of friends. This is something we have come to expect from the hand of this masterful artist, but it is also something which continues to surprise.

Sculptures by Tom Otterness are in the collections of numerous museums including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; The Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; Beelden aan Zee Museum, The Hague; and The IVAM Centro Julio Gonzalez, Valencia. Commissioned public art projects include the United States courthouses in Minneapolis and Sacramento, an extensive installation at the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City, Life Underground in multiple areas of the MTA 14th Street A-C-E-L subway station in New York City, The Marriage of Real Estate and Money at New York City’s Roosevelt Island, and Time and Money in Times Square.

In 2004 Otterness staged a series of monumental outdoor shows, beginning with the highly acclaimed Tom Otterness on Broadway, an exhibition of twenty-five bronze sculptures that spanned five miles of the famous thoroughfare in New York. This inspired similar exhibitions in Indianapolis, Beverly Hills, and Grand Rapids. Otterness was also the first contemporary artist invited to create a helium balloon, Humpty Dumpty, for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, seen by millions of television viewers worldwide.

Otterness, originally from Wichita, Kansas, has been a New York resident since the 1970s. He works from a studio in Brooklyn. An illustrated catalogue with an essay by Alan Moore is available.

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