The North Carolina Museum of Art

Bob Trotman: Inverted Utopias

November 7, 2010–March 27, 2011

Bob Trotman, Girl, 2002, paint and tempera on white pine, poplar, and basswood, with small amount of wax, H. 65 x W. 49 x D. 41 in., North Carolina Museum of Art, Purchased with funds from the William R. Roberson Jr. and Frances M. Roberson Endowed Fund for North Carolina Art, © 2002 Bob Trotman More images

Bob Trotman: Inverted Utopias is the inaugural exhibition in a new gallery dedicated to showing work by North Carolina artists that opens at the North Carolina Museum of Art in November 2010. The opening exhibition in the North Carolina Gallery features key works from the past decade by Bob Trotman, a significant and widely known North Carolina artist who describes his figurative sculptures as an “off-balance hybrid” of influences that include Norman Rockwell, among other artists. Accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, Inverted Utopias includes loans from the artist, private collections, and museums, along with an existing work in the NCMA’s permanent collection. The Museum has also commissioned a major new work by Trotman for the exhibition that will remain on view as part of the permanent collection.

A native of North Carolina, Bob Trotman began his artistic career as a furniture maker, gradually moving away from crafting functional objects to creating sculpture with a human presence. Inspired by a wide range of sources, including ship figureheads, 19th-century storefront wooden effigies, and Gothic religious sculptures, Trotman’s figurative works evolved out of his earlier anthropomorphic furniture. His painted, stained, and carved wood sculptures often depict anonymous people who appear to be in various states of change or flux, both physically and emotionally. The figures are simultaneously humorous and disquieting. Dressed in suits and ties or ladylike dresses, they are portrayed upside down with their legs waving in the air, poised on the brink of jumping or leaping, or sinking into the floor as if it were made of quicksand.

Trotman’s portraits of “model citizens” are infused with enigmatic narratives that lie beneath their carved surfaces, and their startling poses give a whole new meaning to the term body language. “I’m sure we can all call to mind the idealized, utopian version of American life as offered by Norman Rockwell in the pages of the Saturday Evening Post,” Trotman says. “With my wooden figures, I’m making an inverted version of that picture, a dystopian America, where ambiguity replaces certainty.”

As part of the NCMA’s ongoing commitment to the citizens of our state, the new North Carolina Gallery will exhibit the work of emerging and established North Carolina artists. Solo and thematic exhibitions will rotate twice a year and draw from loans and the Museum’s permanent collection.

Organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. Support is provided by The Windgate Charitable Foundation. This exhibition is also made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources and the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.

Plan Your Visit

Inverted Utopias is located in East Building on Level A (see map).

The exhibition is free of charge and not ticketed.

Tours of the exhibition are self-guided.


Artist Web Site
Oral History Interview
Exhibition Review 1
Exhibition Review 2

In the Library

Exhibition catalogue
Bob Trotman: Inverted Utopias

Bob Trotman : a retrospective of furniture and sculpture : [exhibition] North Carolina State University, Visual Arts Center, September 16December 11, 1994. Raleigh, NC: NC State, 1994.
NK 2439 .T76 A4 1994

Artist’s Files
Includes articles from newspapers and journals and gallery invites.