Third time is a charm: Joel Otterson ‘Dark Matter’

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Joel Otterson, a sculptor based in Los Angeles with a BFA from Parsons School of Design New York, has participated in the John Michael Kohler Art Center Arts/Industry program for the third time in 2018. 

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Since the first residency 25 years ago in the pottery, he has been working and creating art pieces with everyday objects found in the house. He has scanned the domestic landscape for elements for his work in copper, pipe, concrete, blown glass, and more.

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When he was invited for the third residency program to the Kohler factory in Wisconsin, he had two big ideas that he wanted to realize during the three months. The first was amphoras and the second to marry domestic objects with filigree floral ware from the 1940s and 1950s.

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In the beginning he modeled his visions in wax and clay but didn’t really achieve the results that Joel Otterson was looking for. Taking a different approach in drawing the designs directly into the sand that is used in the foundry, was a game changer.

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Skipping the modeling process opened up a new flexibility and gave rise to art pieces that trigger emotions and are of a delicate, mystical beauty.

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The art exhibition ‘Dark Matter’ that is the summary of his body of work at the factory in 2017 and 2018 represents a new visual landscape of objects of a bigger scale integrating utilitarian objects and interior design pieces bordering on architectural elements.

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Joel Otterson wanted to make vessels that were inspired by amphoras that he had seen in art museums around the world. However, he envisioned the containers not in clay but cast iron. To achieve this, the technicians in the pottery and the foundry were of tremendous help. Their technical knowledge and skill enabled the artists to produce arresting pieces.

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When he first attended the residency many years ago, he said that a dream had come true as his father was a plumber and Joel had worked with plumbing pipes and fittings in his work. Being at the factory opened a new world of possibilities to his creative process. Returning to Wisconsin after so many years, made Joel realize just how inspiring the environment of the factory is.

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The 168 acres area where anything that goes in the bathroom or kitchen is produced instills the feelings of ‘thinking bigger’ in artists and makes them more ambitious in their work. Suddenly, they can see a different scale. Their work expands and grows exponentially with the help of the available personnel and machines.

Joel’s exhibition speaks to this new dimension and approach through the inherent beauty. Visitors are left with a lasting experience that will linger far into 2019.

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See some other recent Arts/Industry residents: Risa Puno, Samantha Fields, Ghada Amer.

Source: photos are courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Jason Jacques Gallery.

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