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 Tom Otterness  (1952 - )

About: Tom Otterness


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Lived/Active: New York/Kansas      Known for: sculptor-distorted figure, drawing

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Ad Code: 3
Tom Otterness
from Auction House Records.
Princess with Magic Fish, 2003
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Tom Otterness is best known for his figurative sculptures of plump, asymmetrical little people formed out of cast plaster or metal. These forms have a playful, even comical quality and are often involved in some sort of activity or motion.

Otterness was a founding member of the artist's activist group Colab in 1977 and has always had an interest in sculpting. He started out by selling small cast figurines that he made in the late 1970s. He became known for his white plaster friezes of the small figures engaged in acts of war and love. He held his first solo exhibition at the Brooke Alexander Gallery in New York in 1983. His decorative assemblages for the show were mounted above doorways and atop walls.

It is clear that Otterness has been influenced by the art and architecture of many cultures, reflecting the traditional uses of temple reliefs or adorned Greek structures. His primitive figures seem almost familiar in their very human activities while telling a story in a comic strip fashion.

Otterness, born in Wichita, Kansas, attended the Arts Students League and participated in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C. (1990), the Marlborough Gallery, New York (1997) and the John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco (1998).   He lives in New York City and works in Brooklyn.

Source: ARTnews


Tom Otterness has become known through the subway system of New York City with his public works subway project.  He has placed over 100 bronze sculptures between the 14th street and 8th Avenue subway stations.  According to the artist his primary inspiration for this project came from reading information about early New York City history and the political cartoons by Thomas Nast about political corruption in the 1930’s.  Many of the cartoons depicted politicians with money bags for heads, which Otterness has incorporated into many of the sculptures throughout the subway.


Once a year, Tom Otterness opens his Brooklyn studio to the general public during the Open House New York weekend.  The open house allows the public to view the sketches, paintings and sculptures in various phases of completion in the artist own environment.


Source: article and video interview.

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