LA Sculptor Joel Otterson is a Jack-of-all-trades

February 18, 2015

Los Angeles contemporary artist Joel Otterson (b. 1959) is a maker in the old tradition– his materials of choice are copper pipe, pottery, earthenware, concrete, marble, and stained glass; and he also works in quilting, lace making, and woodworking. But his works’ ironic arrangements and pithy titles are wholly au courant. Though a Los Angeles native, Otterson studied art at Parsons School of Design in New York City in the late 70s, and continued to live in the city for more than 20 years. An early achievement: he had a one-person Project Series exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1987 (Projects 4: Joel Otterson). 

Lot 223, Joel Otterson, American Portable Pottery Museum (Wall of China), 1994

Lot 223, Joel Otterson, American Portable Pottery Museum (Wall of China), 1994
March 1, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

Otterson describes his practice: “My work is loud, and I want it to yell at people.” In this boisterous example, American Portable Pottery Museum (Wall of China) (1994), the artist makes a wry and pointed comment on current global manufacturing practices, namely, that China is the United States’ primary trading partner of manufactured goods. Every facet of the behemoth work, measuring almost 8-feet high, conveys a message. A complicated lattice structure of copper tubing makes up the sculpture—China is the second-largest miner and producer of copper in the world. Filled with pieces of found pottery, the sculpture brings to mind the material history of earthenware in the United States, and, by association, the long, complex history of porcelain in China.

Otterson has exhibited widely at national and international venues, and his work is in the permanent collections of The Broad Foundation, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Israel Museum, among others. Notably, he was in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, the 1993 Venice Biennale, and the Hammer Museum’s first Los Angeles biennial Made in L.A. 2012.

Joel Otterson is in the group exhibition, Man-Made: Contemporary Male Quiltersat the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles, January 25 – May 3, 2015. He is featured in the Los Angeles Times article “Male quilters piece new gender, aesthetic paradigms in ‘Man-Made’ show.” Otterson is a senior lecturer at Otis College of Art and Design.

Harrity, Christopher. “Artist Spotlight: Joel Otterson.” The Advocate (2012). Web.
McKenna, Kristine. “ART; How to Push That Bad-Taste Button.” The Los Angeles Times (1994). Web.

Lot 223
Joel Otterson
American Portable Pottery Museum (Wall of China)
125 ceramic pieces, copper plumbing pipe, steel, rubber casters
93″ x 104″ x 30″
Together with copy of invoice and exhibition loan receipt
Provenance: The artist;
Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Santa Monica, California (acquired directly from the above);
Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the above, 1995)
Exhibited: “The 57th Scripps Ceramic Annual,” Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, January 20-April 1, 2001
Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000

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