Lynn Gray and Wayne Potratz at the Nash Gallery

Men and Women in Public Places Drop the N in Men You Get Me Drop the N in Women You Get Wome by Lynn A. Gray
Men and Women in Public Places Drop the N in Men You Get Me Drop the N in Women You Get Wome by Lynn A. Gray

In "Two Prospective Retrospectives," a new show at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota, two retiring faculty members, Lynn A. Gray and Wayne E. Potratz, are celebrated with an exhibition taking a look not just at their artwork, but at their process. Gray's "Chapters" and Potratz's "Fire Turtle" explore their inspirations, travels, and activities -- such as writing and play -- that the artists have employed throughout their careers.

Day Shadow, by Lynn A. Gray
Day Shadow, by Lynn A. Gray

The work displayed by Gray includes large ink silhouettes on paper, multimedia pieces, and paintings. A number of Gray's pieces contain text, often with a pithy message that has a political bent. "Diet Art," reads one painting, called Eye Chart, which has a large letter "A" above the phrase, making it look like the titular object. Another mixed-media piece reads "1. Big 2. Shoes. 3. Create 4.Value 5. For 6. Little 7. Shoes," with a partially outlined, partially filled in drawing of a kid taking up most of the space. A recent mixed-media effort, titled Not a Toy, embeds a black gun and a red butter knife in a collage made to look like a suitcase or possibly a lunch box. 

"Chapters" also displays numerous journals of Gray's in a closed case. It's too bad, because it would be interesting to have the ability to see more of what the journals contain. While you get a sense of their importance, it's not a full picture of what Gray's process is really like. 

Like Gray, Potratz has been on the faculty of the University of Minnesota since the 1960s. Also like Gray, Potratz's work explores solitude, and how he finds inspiration from travels. In Potratz's case, this involves spending time in nature and doing activities such as canoeing and fishing, which are reflected in his work. The exhibition includes works he has created as well as a few pieces he has collected through his travels.

One room acts as an installation, where a canoe, a multimedia fire pit, and various other symbols of being out in nature demonstrate their importance in Potratz's practice. In addition, a collection of turtles and other symbols of the cross-connection between the spirituality and the outdoors figure prolifically among his body of work.

A piece from Wayne E. Potratz's exhibition
A piece from Wayne E. Potratz's exhibition

There's another section where various whimsical pieces are shown, including a lit-up turtle toy. The collection demonstrates how even just playing can eventually lead to more serious work. 

Potratz utilizes philosophy and self reflection in his efforts, but there's a rather problematic appropriation of indigenous and "primitive" motifs, which feels dated. The use of feathers, the canoe, even the turtles themselves all seem well intentioned and certainly personal, but at the same time are a bit un-PC in a Joseph Campbell kind of way. On the other hand, if you're a big fan of Joseph Campbell, you'll probably really dig it. 


"Two Prospective Retrospectives": Lynn A. Gray's "Chapters" and Wayne E. Potratz's "Fire Turtle"
Through October 12, 2013
There will be a public reception from 6-8 p.m. Saturday, September 7
Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the Regis Center for Art
405 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis
Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
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Katherine E. Nash Gallery

405 21st Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455


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