Watches, especially the high-end, more animated ones are often referred to as “kinetic art.” This time, however, with the aid of MB&F, we are taking a step away from timepieces to appreciate the beautifully animated statues of an American gentleman called Bob Potts. We have long known the so-called M.A.D. Gallery of MB&F to feature exceptional artists, working in greatly different fields from building unique motorcycles to amazing guitars. And while each of those were astonishing in their own right, we feel the moving hand-crafted objects of Potts are what make our horologically inclined hearts beat faster; so let’s take a closer look at some of the pieces that will be on display at the Gallery until October.
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As Bob puts it: “My work is the manifestation of ideas that come to me from the natural world.” And while there are exceptions, like this incredible ancient ship called the Cosmographic Voyager with 18 simultaneously moving rowers, it is true that the moving actions of any of the seven pieces exhibited in the Gallery imitate the natural movements of living creatures with astounding ease. It just makes one forget how all these sculptures are crafted from metals such as stainless steel, aluminum, brass, bronze and copper. One scarcely sees these cold and rigid materials operate in such aesthetic and functional harmony; clearly the result of the “artist’s touch”.
Comparable to fine watch movements, Bob only uses parts which are absolutely necessary for the construction and operation of the piece: no superfluous components are added for the sake of decoration or enhanced “flare.” With that said, Potts will not hide the fact that he is inspired by found objects and that he has done “a lot of dumpster diving.” And while his pieces appear to have been designed up to the slightest details in advance of their actual assembly, he says that most of his projects have greatly changed and evolved while already in the process of their creation.
It is interesting to learn, and those who pursue similar creative activities can surely relate, that Potts prefers not to be constrained by pre-conceived ideas. In practice, this means that he either sets out to his realize his next project by starting out with a specific mechanism that he invented and wants to use, or by having an “end in mind” for which he sets out to develop a mechanism that would allow him to achieve that design.
Regardless of the selected approach, he will never use computer-aided design software, but rather creates stick prototypes to help calculate the distances, dimensions and the geometry of the piece at hand. Seeing how complex, and yet how sublimely balanced the functioning of his sculptures are renders this “choice” all the more impressive.
Potts is 72 years old and resides in upstate New York. Raised in San Francisco, the first artwork he worked on was called “My First Car” and it was made in collaboration with his brother and artist, Don Potts. His later work included creating “audio kinetic rolling ball sculptures” with George Rhoads. Since then, he has been working in his one-man workshop in an 1850s barn in Trumansburg. As a few more notable points about his work, he received a three-month solo exhibition at the Butler Institute in Ohio and his “Pursuit II” won “Best in Show” at the “Made in NY 2011” juried show at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center.
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According to MB&F, Potts is best known for his “wing-beat” sculptures and we can certainly understand why. The Pursuit II, pictured above, captures and imitates the beauty of moving wings with incredible ease and fluidity. Based on relatively simple gears, cams and shafts, the result nonetheless is an elaborately crafted and animated object which, in one way or another, certainly speaks to us as fans of complex mechanical designs.
Although much a like fine watch movement, the creations of Potts also work as a piece of art. Their true beauty lies in their operation, as these beautifully crafted items are brought to life through the rotation of a single wheel, setting into vivid, thoroughly calculated movement. mbandf.com