Tom Otterness’ “Real World”: A Public Art Display

Readers of the PiercingMetal.com website might recall a not too long ago concert report for the band Renaissance in which the band performed outside on a hot Summer night down at Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City.  While a little unbearable under the setting sun, the night was a wonderful one in the end and the adventure down to the actual concert something entirely different and interesting in its own right. The reason for this was based on our discovery of another public art installation by Tom Otterness, the American sculptor whose work really shines in my humble opinion. We had explored the artists work after another concert with his “Life Underground” pieces that are set up under the streets of NYC on the 14th Street & 8th Avenue subway line.  Interested folks can click that link to check out the full views and images captured for that experience and we cannot recommend enough that you check this out but totally watch your step as you wander the platform.  Anyway, while heading down into the actual park where the stage was set up, we found the installation of what is called “The Real World”.  The display was commissioned of the artist in 1986 and installed in 1992 and oddly enough I never even knew about it since I rarely get down to this part of the city and the parks.  I guess I need to change that course of action since I am usually finding amazing things to share with the world.  Anyhow, this installation is a fascinating one and is set up around a beautiful playground area.  I photographed a number of the pieces as I wandered down to the show for your visual enjoyment.  Read on.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

The first piece we see is a couple of monkeys and apparently a mother and her baby based on the bottle that is visible in the hand of the larger one.  I love the derby’s.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I’m actually wrong, as the piece above is at the entrance walkway to the playground area while this guardian monkey is ready to welcome you down into the fun.


tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I did a little reading about this particular display to find out what it was all about, and it is apparently presenting life outside the playground with its characters and many of them are playing games with each other in this social setting.  We’ll link to his Wikipedia entry at the close of these photos for you to learn a little more.  The creature above seems to be one of the means of getting to a greater goal and it is following along a penny strewn footpath which you see next.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

This next whosiwhatsis seems to have quite a few more riders to the end than our previous friend and while I might be seeing this wrong, the large cat on the top appears to be hog tied by the little gremlins in suits around him.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

More pennies and larger ones to boot are visible on this half man half platypus kind of creature and its driver.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I stopped between the traveler’s to get a little bit more of a closer look at the path.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

This one had an almost religious feel to it and made me wonder if the characters behind him were following this holy man to the still mysterious goal at the end.  I am not too sure, but will run with that for the time being.

 

Interestingly enough, the moment I saw this next particular one my head started spinning the song “Iron Fist” by Motorhead.  These statues are made of bronze anyway so I am practically correct.  Tell me this one doesn’t have some social meaning to it.  The little people are caught in the grip of big business society or something of that nature.  Maybe I am wrong, but we are really close to Wall Street to that wouldn’t surprise me.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

You younger generation technology fans might not recognize this next device but it is called a telephone.  Yep, these things used to be big and bulky and came in any color you wanted provided it was black.  Over the years its changed quite a bit as you know and now these things are almost as ancient as dinosaur bones in this particular design.  I actually still have one in my apartment closet as an emergency phone should all my wireless stuff decide to no longer work.  I feel old just saying how back during these times you only had about six feet of cord to the wall at best and three on the receiver cord.  When you were on a long call, you were literally “tied to the phone” in the sense that you could not go too far until you hung up.   Wild huh.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Class warfare on the top of a penny?  Maybe that is what this one is trying to disclose as we see a miniature rich fat cat and his lady toasting to whatever they deem toast worthy.  The giant penny is being rolled by other gremlins from a different social class standing.  Such is our daily life eh?

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Another view of the penny and its partying peoples.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

The path ended at this rather large figure and perhaps it was a judge of some kind.  I am not too sure but it looks like it is swearing over bibles or something while smaller characters scurry above and below it.  Wild stuff and a couple of the wee folk were keeping busy with some disembodied smiling heads down at the base of this structure.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

The base was also made of some heads and a number of pennies.  I am sensing a theme here.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Coming up next is a rather large frog being kissed by the looks of it and my guess is that they are hoping that it morphs into a prince of some kind.  Before you ask, no, there was no prince around the corner from this statue.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I guess it would not be a New York Park without something representing a pigeon, so here we find one.  Fortunately this one does not leave any presents behind.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

The cat person in me loved seeing some feline friends being represented in the display.  This one was not too far from the pigeon above and clearly ready to strike.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Another view of the cat on the attack.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

At one of the tables we found some creatures embroiled in a game of strategy.  I think this chap was losing.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

His turn was taking forever and hence the game ran well into the night.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Welcome to Happy Hour, Tom Otterness Style.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Looks like this session of enjoying the drink lasts a little longer than until 7pm.  Sign me up for a few rounds.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

This one lost me completely, I was really not too sure what to make of it, but I shall assume that this was the loser in the game that was being played.  He does seem to have fallen upon hard times.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

No movement from our friend from above yet.  Cleanup on table three I guess.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

In the center of the park was this giant fountain and during the day the kids were playing in it to cool down from the scorching summer sun.  I don’t blame them because it was looking pretty good an idea under 98 degree heat.  Anyway, the water pooled up around the thing and sprayed in different directions.  I loved this fountain based on all the presented characters and their activity and with that in mind I tried to capture a number of them.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

There were really too many little happenings down in this little mini-raging river to capture but we did what we could.  Some of the figures are sitting off to the edge of the river while others are riding its creatures.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I realize that it is corny but something is afoot with this next image LOL.  Believe it or not I almost tripped over these giant feet.  That will serve me right for looking in another direction with all of this stuff around me.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I zoomed in on the two figures on the toes that you see in the corner of the photo above to get a closer look at them.  As you see one of them was kicking back with his shoes off and just enjoying the day. The other was catching a snooze and with this heat around us that sure didn’t sound like a bad idea.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Our next little friend appears to have developed a foot or at least toe fetish of some kind.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I took a swing back on the way out of the concert to see the board game table again because I realized I had not photographed all of its activity.  The game of life comes in all shapes and sizes eh?

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I hope our little friend down below doesn’t fall in while they try to snare whatever it was they were reaching for.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Below we see the epic battle of good versus evil or perhaps just two mighty mammals fighting for some dominance over the same piece of territory.  The little folk below seem hardly fazed by the goings on above them.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

The river came with its own traffic cop as this little woman attempts to stop the flowing stream.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

While not too far away we find more aquatic mammals going about their everyday stuffs.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

On another ledge overlooking the stream a miniature couple contemplates their future together.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Of course over to the other side is a rather menacing baddie who seems to be terrorizing a multi-floored house and all of its occupants.  Perhaps this is Otterness’ version of Godzilla or Gojira depending on when you grew up.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

The creature was rather sizable and towered over all of the other statues around him in the park.  It was also in the center of the stream wading area.   Here is a different look at the mighty monster of Rockefeller Park.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I zoomed in on the character on the top of the house because he resembled Humpty Dumpty and was fiddling away on the roof like Nero over Rome as the monster shook the structure to its foundation.  There were several other levels of pennies all stacked up and other mini characters scurrying about the place.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

Next up we see a little more detail of a section in the stream and some of the critters hanging around on its banks.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

This little guy was one of my favorite statues and one that I would think looks nice on a mantle.  I wonder if he makes smaller ones available for sale.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

We find Otterness showing us a good old fashioned writer doing this in the original fashion.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I think this next one is the brains or at least the head of the exhibit LOL.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I started out my visit with this next figure, but preferred this angle as I worked through my images.  It’s pretty cool.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

There were a lot of animals as you already saw, and while we had a cat, some frogs, and a bird, it would not be the same without a visual of man’s best friend.  I found it funny how they had a statue chained up so it would not run away while its master was off doing whatever it had to do.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

A slightly different angle on the pigeon that was presented a little while before.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

And a daylight shot of the multi-player shenanigans going on at the chess board table.

tom otterness, the real world sculptures

I hope you all enjoyed this little wander because that is what the intention was as I shot these images.  When I compared this public display to that of his installation down on the subway station I had to say that these statues were even cooler if you compared one against the other.  There is a little more variance across the scope of designs with these while the others are mostly similar figures all doing different functions.

How To Find This: Take the R Train to City Hall in Lower Manhattan and find Warren Street.  It’s pretty much right outside of the main exit/entrance of the line which is on Broadway.  Walk down Warren Street until you reach the park entrance on River Terrace.  The “Real World” display will be down in the playground/sitting area of the park and really cannot be missed since there are so many statues around.  Depending on the time of day that you make your own adventure you might be dealing with parents and their little ones or some of the students from Stuyvesant High School.  Either way, this is an side trip worth making.  Have fun.

Official Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Otterness

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