San Francisco

Don Potts

Hansen Gallery

Don Potts, a sculptor currently exhibiting five large pieces at the Hansen Gallery, continues to explore an increasingly mature and unique artistic vision. The path Potts has chosen to explore parallels in some respects the large and extremely reductive sculpture being done by Robert Morris, Donald Judd and John McCracken. The piece titled Up Tight out of Sight typifies his work in general and also points out some basic concerns of the post-expressionist generation of English and American sculptors. The piece is a bare two feet off the ground and spreads out seven or eight feet from tip to tip while its width is perhaps a foot narrower. The piece is divided equally into two sections and is made of joined hardwood lathe covered with fur a few inches to either side of the middle. The two wooden platforms are independently sprung and rest atop a hidden metal frame. When the leg or foot touch either platform the piece rocks gently in a forward to aft motion as well as port to starboard motion. Potts shares with the other sculptors mentioned a questioning attitude about where sculpture should be in terms of the defined cubical space of most closed environments. He questions the attitude perhaps best described as an “ideal” space activator and chooses instead a path that could be called passive-aggressive in the sense that the sculpture refuses to “look” ideal or to “inform” or to fulfill the role of the monument in spite of its large scale. Both drama and sculptural incident are smothered in spite of movement and the placement of fur on the surface. Metaphor becomes extremely difficult when writing about Potts’ current work although not so difficult as when describing Judd’s or McCracken’s pieces. Judd and McCracken eschew all but the most basic allusion, while Potts allows clues, in most cases misleading, one suspects, to the iconography of his pieces.

The use of wood, which lends itself to the most idiosyncratic handling, is joined, finished and varnished in a very impersonal manner. The surfaces of the pieces look as if they were turned out in a prison furniture factory to be used in the classroom to test their durability. Again Potts hits on a current being exploited by other sculptors of his generation: the alienated material surface that in fact suppresses the old “truth to materials” axiom so dear to the hearts of two generations of art instructors and artists. Although Potts has not completely succeeded in his attempt to invert the sculptural ideal it isn’t because he didn’t try.

James Monte