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More about this print
- Published: tbc
- Image Size: tbcmm x tbcmm
- Paper Size: tbcmm x tbcmm
- Edition Size: tbc
- Original: No
About the Artist
Born in 1930 in Junction City, Kansas, Otnes trained at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he first encountered Cubist works by Braque and Picasso. The Modernist commitment to form without the illusion of depth captured his imagination, though it would be some time before he incorporated it into his own work. Otnes first pursued a career in traditional, realistic illustration in Chicago, and then, from 1953, in New York. While working for national magazines and advertising clients, he and his wife, Fran, built a house in Connecticut designed by architect John Johansen in the International style and furnished it in classic Modernist mode.
By the mid-1960s, aware of the shrinking market in magazine illustration, Otnes made a bold change in his method of working, finally putting into play the ideas that had dictated his taste and interest for years. Using newly-honed printing, photo-transfer, and collage techniques, he pioneered a unique look: multiple images across a one-dimensional plane. This was the perfect form in which to depict some of the more complex concepts of the era such as the war in Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement. At the top of his field, Otnes received more than two hundred awards for his work.
Once again sensing a change in the business in the mid-1980s, Otnes committed himself solely to creating gallery work. Fully able to explore the art of collage on his own terms, he has continued to push at the boundaries of scale and abstraction in his work, as is clear in the catalogue section of this book. The text describes his motives and motivations with each transition in his life, especially what artist Mark English describes as Otnes's "metamorphosis" from realist illustrator to collage artist. Otnes also discusses some of the many and disparate artists and art forms he admires, from Piero della Francesco to Richard Diebenkorn to Outsider Art. He speaks of the challenges of work, the nearly fugue-like state he sometimes achieves when in the studio, and considers the never-ending difficulties that the medium itself imposes, as well as those he imposes upon himself so that he remains interested and the work continues to grow.
With elements as diverse as appropriations from Renaissance and Old Master works, eighteenth-century engravings, bicycle patent diagrams, sheet music, feathers, fabric, and flowers, Otnes demonstrates in image after image a subtle, elegant world where imagery and surface interact, where tonal and textural shifts delight, and where secrets and mysteries emerge from the torn paper and scraped away paint. A world where beauty and meaning hover in wordless communication between artist and viewer.
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