new-york

Tom Otterness

Brooke Alexander

Using his familiar tubby, toylike figures, Tom Otterness has created The Tables, 1986–87, a theatrical tour de force rich with sociological import. On three Cor-Ten steel tables, which are arranged in one long row, an array of cast-bronze objects is laid out in a narrative of contrasting scenes. On the first table, animals and humans live happily together in a primitive paradise, although it is already tainted with worship of the machine (a telephone), while, emerging through hinged doors that open out of the tabletop, a giant whale represents the forces of nature, whose power mankind has harnessed to create a “whale of a bomb.” On the table at the other end, an enormous spider dominates, symbolizing a mercenary world preoccupied with money-making (there is a bank full of pennies, as well as a large cast-bronze penny). On the table in between, Otterness depicts two social orders, which

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