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Review: Joel Otterson at Maloney Fine Art

Joel Otterson's trash-to-treasure lighting fixtures are illuminating in ways that typical hobby craft rarely is. While the sculptures -- especially two recent chandeliers (there's also a table lamp and a wall sconce) – employ found objects familiar from standard assemblage techniques, they also spin wry social and conceptual riffs.

At Maloney Fine Art, the chandeliers are constructed from thrift-shop and garage-sale glassware – cut, etched or pressed glass goblets, stemware, sherry and wine glasses and more. One features cool colors (blue, green, purple), the other warm (red, orange, gold). The glasses are suspended upside-down in the shape of an inverted cone, which partly explains their shared title: “Bottoms Up.”

Another explanation comes from the cheeky innuendo in a show Otterson has dubbed “Chandelier Queer” -- slang for what the Urban Dictionary calls “a homosexual with exquisite and/or expensive taste” or “a self-spoiled fruit.” His designs seem descended from Baccarat's late-19th century “birdcage chandelier,” in which crystals were hung from an elegant wire armature. Inside Otterson's sculptures, the wire structure also recalls Marcel Duchamp's 1914 bottle-drying rack, adding another layer of smart whimsy to all that tumbling glassware.

CHEAT SHEET: Fall arts preview

Fragility is part of the beauty of this light-filled work, which executes its Rumpelstiltskin transformation of straw-into-gold with great panache. Individually, the glasses tend toward the unlovely, passé and forlorn; remnants of celebrations gone by are here artfully restored into one last, long and very grand hurrah.
 
The sense that everything could come crashing down into shattered ruin merges with the recognition that strength and endurance are found in numbers -- and in art.

Maloney Fine Art, 2680 S. La Cienega Blvd., Culver City, (310) 570-6420, through Dec. 21. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.maloneyfineart.com

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