The Cage (The Living Room)
by Joel Otterson
DateJune 1 - Aug 31, 1999
VenueWeston Art Gallery
The Cincinnati Arts Association and the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts present Joel Otterson’s The Cage (The Living Room), a special exhibition on loan from the Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati. A sculptural piece created in 1988 using 18th- and 19th-century Dutch ceramic tiles, The Cage features Italian porcelain lamps, colored glass, dirt, grass, welded steel, cedar wood benches, rubber wheels, copper, live chickens, brass, bronze plumbing pipe and fittings.
Inspired by a visit to the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium where the animals live in miniature re-creations of past architecture (i.e., monkeys and reptiles in a Greek ruin, rhinoceroses in a Swiss chalet), Joel Otterson has created a zoo and park on wheels in The Cage (The Living Room). This compact and mobile unit offers a whimsical perspective on nature’s place in the busy, over-crowded urban environment. It also alludes to the roles of zoos and museums as the preserves of both nature and culture. The elaborate skyscraper-shaped cages, built out of an unlikely combination of copper plumbing pipes and antique 18th-century Dutch tiles and other incongruous elements, house a group of far-from-exotic white chickens. Otterson’s humor plays on city-dwellers’ limited experience with nature and also spoofs conventions of modern architecture in the work’s shape and form. (From “Explanatory Notes on the Exhibition: The New Urban Landscape,” by Philip Yenawine, Dir. of Education, MOMA, NY.)