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Don Potts


Rown Over

Wood, metal, and fiberglass
44 x 66 x 40 in. (111.76 x 167.64 x 101.6 cm)
Gift of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego with support from the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

Don Potts was a San Francisco sculptor who began working with wood and shaped canvas in the early 1960s while at San Jose State College. Along with a number of artists attending and teaching at Northern California colleges, like Mowry Baden, Tony DeLap, and Bruce Nauman, Potts began to extend the boundaries of what constituted sculpture. For him this consisted of finely crafted objects that, according to San Francisco critic Thomas Albright, “had erotic overtones: shapes like pelvic girdles or saddles, trimmed with fur-lined edges and equipped with ‘arms’ or rockers.”

The inverted saddle shape of Rown Over suggests that the title might be a play on the word “roan,” which refers to a specific coloration of horses and other animals. Rown may also refer to the rowan tree, which in European mythology is thought to be magical, indicating a threshold or a passageway between two places.

The metal pipe at the center of Rown Over relates to Potts’s later work involving cars—in particular unmanned racing vehicles. Racing and horses are thematic elements evoking transportation and movement in his oeuvre. In an Artforum article on Potts, artist Knute Stiles observes that in the preautomobile past, horses were not only modes of transportation but symbols of man, and that in contemporary culture man fetishizes cars the way he once did horses.

Another interpretation of the title could be “run over,” thus indicating a transitional work (à la the rowan tree) signaling Potts’s leaving (running over) the realm of classical sculpture (the saddle is upside down, suggesting that it has been run over) and moving on to his next phase, the development of the unmanned radio-controlled vehicle called The Master Chassis.

Bolton T. Colburn

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