Exhibition of sculptural work by Woody De Othello on view at Karma

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Exhibition of sculptural work by Woody De Othello on view at Karma
Woody De Othello, exhalation and praises, 2022, bronze, ceramic and glaze, 48 x 32½ x 61 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Karma.

NEW YORK, NY.- Karma is presenting Maybe tomorrow, an exhibition of sculptural work by Woody De Othello.

Maybe tomorrow takes its name from a catchy, unsettling 1971 tune by jazz musician Grant Green. The return of the song’s darkly melodic hook was often stuck in Woody De Othello’s head while he worked in his Bay Area studio.

In Maybe tomorrow, the gallery becomes the site of an architectural intervention. Passing through the entrance to the gallery, a second doorway greets the viewer, behind which hides the exhibition. Inside, concrete floors and walls are covered up, transformed by wooden floorboards and vibrant green walls. Within them, Othello has created a site of transportation where a multitude of mise-en-scenes are staged, and the passage of time is replaced with a strange current. This immersive installation recalls Othello’s earliest sculptural works, made when he was still in his undergraduate years that were set in unexpected surroundings such as bodegas and barbershops.

Othello’s process is intuitive. Beginning with seemingly mundane and domestic forms—clocks, calendars, phones, and box fans– Othello hones in on their emotionality, extrapolating on their curves and exaggerating their size. The result is often tubular, drooping, and coated in vibrant reds, purples, and magnetic blacks, imbued with the subterranean futurity of jazz. Figurative works join anthropomorphized objects. The rattling of a radiator is poised against a silent prayer; hands clasp together and ears decorate a vase; a dog sits like a deity. Domestic objects become repositories of psychic significance, resonant of nkisi, a West and Central African concept in which objects contain and release spiritual forces. For Othello, each work is a vessel, even when it is physically sealed.

Othello’s works are created in Richmond, California, in close proximity to where artists Peter Voulkos, Viola Frey and Robert Arneson articulated their style of “muscular sculpture.” Influences are treated as organically as his materials, which he molds and manipulates, layers, and leaves thick. Books on Bantu art and Yoruba religion are referenced in drum-shaped pedestals, while tropical plants are painted onto a calendar, nodding to Othello’s upbringing in Miami as the child of Haitian immigrants. Whether he is working with source material or aesthetic media, Othello’s hand is always present—shaping, pulling, and searching.

Othello describes the first time he touched clay as an epiphany, in which “he just knew.” This encounter emanates from the core of his practice, in which he gives personal shape to the world around him and mundane objects become doorways into the domain of the spirit.

Woody De Othellos’s work is currently included in Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2021-2022, Othello was the subject of a solo exhibition, Hope Omens, at the John Michael Kohler Center, and was included in Quiet as It’s Kept, the 2022 Whitney Biennial. His work is represented in the collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, Florida; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California; MAXXI – National Museum of 21st Century Art, Rome, Italy; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California; the Rennie Collection, Vancouver, British Columbia; Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Massachusetts; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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