Arts of SF Bay Area

The Arts of the
   San Francisco Bay Area
     1945-1980

MChassisTF

Full Page Photo, Page 152, Fig. 130

Don Potts
The “Master
Chassis” from
the “My First
Car” series
1969

27½”
x 75½”
x 141”

Sculpture of the Sixties   Chapter 7

In general, as the 1069s advanced, sculpture tended to lose its rough edges and take on some of the sleek, technological finishes of Formalist painting. This development was particularly noticeable at San Jose State College. Don Potts, a painting student there in the early 1960s, moved gradually to sculpture in which he applied a carpenter’s woodcraft to utilitarian forms—a deacon’s bench, a pencil-holder, a flamenco guitar—that he called “Totems to My Existence” (the title of his Master’s show in 1965). He also did more abstract pieces in unpainted wood and leather that were generally organic in form and sometimes had erotic overtones: shapes like pelvic girdles or saddles, trimmed with fur-lined edges and equipped with “arms” or rockers.

In 1969 Potts began to consolidate his ideas in the concept of car. At first, he planed a relatively straightforward sculpture that would combine the forms of vehicle and human figure. But the project grew increasingly complex, and finally resulted, almost four years later, in a sleek, meticulously engineered skeleton called The Master Chassis (see Fig, 130), complete with four-cylinder engine (operated by radio control), running gears, clutch, hydraulic steering, and other functioning mechanisms. Although the car’s actual velocity was limited, its slender, biomorphic, strictly symmetrical form—like that of a precision-engineered insect—was a veritable icon of speed. Potts also completed a series of interchangeable auto ““bodies”—almost equally skeletal constructions of fabric and steel or stainless steel plates—that could be mounted on the chassis like a change of clothes. He became increasingly engrossed in his work, continually refining as his technological sophistication grew. Thomas Garver has suggested that for Potts, the car came to represent a kind of alchemical labor of self-transformation (as the “large glass” may have been for Marcel Duchamp).

TAlbright Thomas Albright

Text, Pages 152, 153

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