Final weeks to view 'Dark Matter: Joel Otterson' at John Michael Kohler Arts Center

  • SHEBOYGAN, Wisconsin
  • /
  • December 21, 2018

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"Dark Matter: Joel Otterson" installation view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2018.
Photo courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

For the past thirty years, California artist Joel Otterson has made sculpture that combines aspects of domestic handicraft with traditional sculptural materials. In Dark Matter, on view through January 20, 2019, at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Otterson presents new sculptural work produced in a studio located on the factory floor in the Kohler Co. Foundry during his 2018 Arts/Industry residency. 

In addition to the cast-metal works, the exhibition features sculptures made from exotic hardwoods, Persian carpets, and luxurious upholstery fabrics. The gallery space is defined by large, translucent, textile tapestries sewn by Otterson in his Los Angeles studio. 

Through juxtaposition of materials and methods, Otterson brings real but undefined forces into play. Since the 1980s, he has been vigilantly building upon a new visual landscape that combines aspects of domestic handicraft with traditional sculptural materials. 

Otterson’s remaking of everyday objects through mash-ups of furniture, appliances, utilitarian objects, interior decorations, and architectural elements aligns his practice with feminist thinking and queer aesthetics. Dark Matter continues his lifelong trajectory of fabricating domestic interiors that challenge gender roles through works combining aspects of domestic handicraft with traditional sculptural material. 

Three Arts/Industry residencies (2001, 2017, 2018) at Kohler Co.’s factory have had a noteworthy impact on Otterson’s practice. It was during his 2001 residency that Otterson had his first opportunity to work seriously in ceramics, producing eighty-eight pieces in Kohler Co.’s Pottery. Upon his return to the factory in 2017, Otterson was able to experiment in Kohler Co.’s Foundry, working with cast iron and experimenting with scale. During his third residency, he followed through with ideas and concepts from the year before. 

Dark Matter’s combination of materials helps contextualize Otterson’s drive to give things a new identity, change their context, and reveal hidden meaning. The exhibition is part of the Arts Center’s Live/Work series, which comprises four exhibitions considering the influence and function of the artist’s studio.

John Michael Kohler Arts Center
608 New York Ave.
Sheboygan, Wisconsin
About John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Founded in 1967, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is dedicated to making innovative arts programming accessible to a broad audience that ranges from artists and academics to families and youth of all ages. Central to its mission is promoting understanding and appreciation of the work of self-taught and contemporary artists through original exhibitions, commissioned works of art, performing arts programs, community arts initiatives, and publications. The Arts Center’s collections focus primarily on works by vernacular-environment builders, self-taught and folk artists, and works created in the Arts/Industry residency program. Admission to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center is by voluntary donation. Memberships, which support the free-admission policy, are available at the Arts Center, by visiting, or by calling 920-458-6144. Members enjoy discounts to ticketed events, on purchases in the ARTspace shops, and on workshop and class tuition. JMKAC is a 501(c)3 (nonprofit) organization; donations are tax deductible. Arts Center Hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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