Daily Art Moment: John Outterbridge

Square wall-mounted sculpture composed of mainly square and rectangle metal-looking shapes layered and soldered, creating a patchwork effect. The left half is dark grey mottled with rust color at the top edge. A vertical flat silver rectangle sits roughly in the center of the piece surrounded by jagged soldering. The right side consists of a rust-colored metal base topped with three-dimensional shapes that appear to be composed of leather strapping, more soldered metal shapes and spheres carved with faces. Dusty brown leather strapping punctuated with rivets creates an L shape starting at the top right corner running down the right edge. More riveted leather strapping continues on the bottom right edge. A metal box containing five spheres with faces with varying expressions sits two-thirds from the top of the sculpture touching the center line that divides the piece. Facial expressions include two smiling, one grimace, and two with what appear to be O-shaped mouths. Rough soldering creates thick L shapes in rust and gray above the box of spheres.

“In his Containment Series, John Outterbridge combined industrial materials with handcrafted pieces and found objects. In form and concept, he explores what makes up boundaries: structural ones like frames; material ones like straps and metal sheets; all of which are suggestive of physical constraints like cells and belts. Five carved faces emerge from within the structure, and their expressive presence speaks powerfully, to me, of the human drive to be free. Outterbridge made this sculpture in 1969, the culminating year of a decade that included major moments of the civil rights movement, anti-war protests, and great social change. Today, the COVID-19 crisis is necessitating another transformation. As social, economic, and racial disparities are thrown into sharp relief, debates of what is the basis for freedom—individual rights or an equitable collective—will occupy us for the months to come and will shape our path forward.”

Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

John Outterbridge (American, born 1933). From Within, from “Containment Series,” 1969. Mixed media. Gift of Robin Dunitz, 2017.42.1 © unknown, research required.

David Abel is a poet, editor, and educator, and the proprietor of Passages Bookshop & Gallery.

In this Artist Talk, Abel speaks about John Outterbridge’s From Within, from Containment Series, 1969, and how it relates to his work.

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