Rauschenberg Collaborator and Art Historian Appear At Special Brenau Program

Aug 30, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Originally published on 10/01/09

Darryl Pottorf
Darryl Pottorf

Brenau University will host a special program Thursday, Oct. 8, honoring the late artist Robert Rauschenberg and showcasing the exhibit of his work that is on public display through Nov. 1.

The event will feature a retrospective of Rauschenberg’s work by Dr. Susan Richmond, assistant professor of art history at Georgia State University and a personal reminiscence by artist Darryl Pottorf, long-time friend, colleague and collaborator of Rauschenberg.

There will be a public reception at 6 p.m. in the university’s Leo Castelli Art Gallery, 429 Academy St., in Gainesville. Presentations by Richmond and Pottorf begin at 7 p.m. The exhibit, entitled “Robert Rauschenberg: In Remembrance,” is also free and open to the public.

By the time Texas-born Rauschenberg died in May 2008 at age 82, he was considered to be one of the most important artists of the 20th century with his works hanging in the Smithsonian, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and other venues around the world.

Rauschenberg was instrumental in development of American art and it evolved since the end of World War II. He created art in perhaps a greater range of materials and methods than any other contemporary artist.

According to Vanessa Grubbs, director of Brenau galleries, Rauschenberg’s early embrace of popular culture and led him to search for a new way of painting. Rauschenberg’s “Combines” in which non-traditional materials and objects were employed in innovative combinations are the works for which he is best known.

In one of the largest collections of Rauschenberg’s works for an institution of its size, Brenau currently has 21 pieces on long-term loan from Pottorf and another five pieces that it owns as part of its impressive permanent art collection. In addition to the pieces that will be on display in the gallery, other pieces hang permanently in the adjacent lobby of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts and in a public area of the university’s nearby Trustee Library.

“Since we opened in September, people have really been responding to this exhibit in a positive way,” said Grubbs. “Rauschenberg was a trailblazer. He not only paved the way for pop art but broke far ahead of it in incorporating three-dimensional everyday objects into flat surfaces. And, because he was so prolific, he is an artist that many, many people have been able to enjoy.”

The exhibit is open daily, except Saturdays, from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. It will also be closed during the university’s fall break Oct. 15-18. Although it has been officially opened since Sept. 1, “we wanted to celebrate it at a time when Darryl Pottorf could be present.” The university also has eight Pottorf pieces of work on display on the campus and plans a complete show of his work next year.

Born in Ohio in 1952, Pottorf grew up in south Florida and worked in his father’s construction business to pay his way through Florida State University. He trained as both an architect and an artist. While he was studying in Florence, Italy, he saw an exhibition of Rauschenberg’s work which, in part, inspired him to settle for more study in Fort Myers, Fla., near Captiva, where Rauschenberg had a home. He landed a job as Rauschenberg’s assistant – painting buildings, hauling lumber and other chores while advancing his own abstract art comprising poured black ship’s paint on aluminum panels. Rauschenberg was so impressed with Pottorf’s talent that he promoted him to chief studio assistant. While producing his own work – both as an individual and as a collaborator with Rauschenberg – Pottorf has gone on to also design and build his own home as well as Rauschenberg’s home and state-of-the-art studio. Since that time, Pottorf’s art has expanded in scope and materials, and his work is in major exhibitions and collections around the globe.

Susan Richmond received a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002, an M.A. in art history from UT-Austin in 1995 and a B.A. in studio art and art history from Wellesley College in 1992. Richmond has taught courses at UT-Austin, Austin Community College, The Atlanta College of Art and Agnes Scott College. She joined the GSU faculty as a visiting lecturer in summer 2003 and returned as an assistant professor in fall 2006. She teaches classes on modern and contemporary art and theory. Richmond is also an art critic for Atlanta-based Art Papers.

For more information or to make reservations to attend the reception, call 770-534-6160 or e-mail jbrown@brenau.edu.

Also in the Brenau galleries:

“The Animal Within,” Sellars Gallery, through Oct. 11. This exhibition will focus on both sculptural and functional ceramic objects made by female artists. Each artist masterfully uses animal imagery to convey meaning to their work.

Nancy Floyd, “She’s Got a Gun,” through Nov. 1, featuring the work of the internationally acclaimed photographer. This exhibition showcases Floyd’s compelling images of women and guns in three specific areas: pleasure, power and profession.

All exhibitions and events are free and open to the public. Please contact the gallery for hours, directions or more information at 770-534-6263 or email gallery@brenau.edu.