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Robert C. Arneson, Robert Arneson

Biography to Display: 

1930 Born, Benicia, California

1992 Died, Benicia, California

EDUCATION

1949-1952 College of Martin, Kentfield, California

1954—BA Art Education California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California

1958—MFA California College of the Arts, Oakland, California

PRIMARY WORK EXPERIENCES

1958-1993 Ceramic Sculptor

1960-1962 Instructor of Design and Crafts, Mills College, Oakland, California

1962-1991 University of California, Davis, California

 

Robert Arneson is perhaps best known for his ceramic sculptural pieces that challenge social and economic norms and beliefs prevalent in western civilization of his time. He was one of several California ceramists who in the 1960s began to abandon the traditional ceramic vessel in favor of experimenting with the use of clay to express concepts.  Everyday items were created in clay to comment on contemporary socio-political issues. He became a leader in a movement that became known as Ceramic Funk, part of the larger Funk Movement that swept through California during the 1960s.

Arneson began his interest in art as a high school student by drawing cartoons and painting with water colors an interest he would pursue throughout his career. His early teaching positions required him to teach ceramics, not a media he had mastered, which led him to take ceramics classes. He enrolled in summer classes with Herbert Sanders at San Jose State and with Edith Heath at California College of Arts and Crafts. In 1957 he enrolled in the MFA program at Mills College where he studied ceramics with Antonio Prieto. There are examples of perfectly thrown pots from this period. Abstract Expressionist ideas began to enter his work in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At this time Arneson was aware of the work of Peter Voulkos whose influence began to appear in Arneson’s sculptures. Ceramic pieces created by Joan Miro with Josep Artigas also interested Arneson.

In 1962 he was hired by The University of California, Davis where at a time when ceramic sculpture was not considered a serious art medium, he established the ceramic sculpture program as part of the larger Art Department.

Drawing was an integral part of his studio work throughout his life: he worked out ceramic sculptures in numerous detailed sketches. He also made many drawings and paintings with other themes including the Alice Street house which he repeatedly painted during 1967-68 while living in New York City. Arneson’s curiosity led him to take classes in other media including weaving and jewelry making. Bronze casting was his major focus in 1963, his goal that year was a casting a week.

Figurative pieces began to show up in his work in the early 1960s, in 1969 he constructed most of the long series of cast trophies. Arneson typically worked in series developing an idea by its repetition.The trophies led to a series of household items each embellished with unexpected elements. Going forward he continued throughout his life to create figurative work including numerous oversized self-portraits and portraits of friends that he had begun making in the early 1970s. In addition to the various written signatures discussed above he often used metal stamps to impress block letter messages as well as his signature and occasionally the date on his pieces.

Public Collections

Public Collections to Display: 

Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Seto, Japan

Akron Art Museum, Akron, Ohio

Anderson Collection at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California

Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama

Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho

Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine

Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park, Florida

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California

Davis Art Center, Davis, California

De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts

Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado

Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Ohio

Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York

Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fresno, California

Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco, California

Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Park, Washington, DC

Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii (formerly The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii)

Jewish Museum, New York, New York

Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California

Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Lewis Foundation, Richmond, Virginia

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California

Lowe Museum of Art, University of Miami, Florida

Maier Museum of Art, Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis,Tennessee

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York

Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, Montreal, Canada

Mildura Arts Center, Mildura, Australia

Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, California

Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York (formerly American Craft Museum, New York)

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas

Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York

Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, Japan

National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan

Richard Nelson Gallery and Fine Arts Collection, University of California, Davis, California

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida

Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California

Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California

Oberlin College, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio

Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, California

Pennsylvania State University, Palmer Museum of Art, University Park, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona

Pollock-Krasner Study Center, East Hampton, New York

Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin

Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California

San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California

Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California

Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Shigaraki, Japan

Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

St.Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio

University of Iowa, Museum of Art, Iowa City, Iowa

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkley, California

University of California, Davis, California

University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

University of Utah, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, Utah

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

Frederick Weisman Art Foundation, Malibu, California

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York

Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut

Bibliography

Bibliography to Display: 

Adrian, Dennis. “Robert Arneson’s Feats of Clay”. Art in America (September - October 1974).

Arneson, Robert. “Guardians: The Spirit of the Work”.  Ceramics Monthly (April 1991).

Berkson, Bill. Robert Arneson: Double Portraits. San Francisco, CA: Brian Gross Fine Art, 1999.

Benezra, Neal. Robert Arneson: A Retrospective. Des Moines, IA: Des Moines Art Center, 1986.

Fineberg, Jonathan. A Troublesome Subject: The Art of Robert Arneson. Berkeley, CA, Los Angeles, CA, London, England: University of California Press, 2013.

_______________, Gary Garrels, and Janet Bishop. Robert Arneson: Self Reflections. San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1997.

Johnson, Ken. “Robert Arneson at Frumkin/Adams Gallery”.  Art in America (December 1990).

Kramer, Hilton. “Ceramic Sculpture and the Taste of California”. The New York Times, 20 December 1981.

Kuspit, Donald.  “Arneson’s Outrage”.  Art in America (May 1985).

____________. “Robert Arneson”.  Artforum (January 1991).

Mayfield, Signe, Daniel Rosenfeld, and Linda Craighead. Big Idea: The Maquettes of Robert Arneson. Palo Alto, CA: Palo Alto Art Center, 2001.

Mazow, Leo. Arneson and the Object. University Park, PA: Palmer Art Museum, 2004.

Morinue, Camille and Lucia Pesapane. Ceramix, from Rodin to Schutte.  Belgium Snoeck Publilshers, 2015.

Nash, Steven A. Arneson and Politics: A Commemorative Exhibition. San Francisco, CA: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1993.

Natsoulas, John. Thirty Years of tB-9: A Tribute to Robert Arneson. Davis, CA: John Natsoulas Gallery, 1991.

Propokoff, Stephen and Suzanne Foley. Robert Arneson. Chicago, IL: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1974.

Selz, Peter. Funk. Berkeley, CA, University Art Museum, 1967.

Sommer, Robert. “Comment:  Arneson’s Bust”. Arts and Architecture (August 1982).

Tarshis, Jerome.  “Looking for Arneson to Get Serious”.  California Magazine (May 1985).

 

CV or Resume: Click Here to Download

CV or Resume: Click Here to Download
Source: Elaine Levin Archives, University of Southern California

 

Typical Marks

Marks: Inscribed "Robert" or "Arneson" in wet clay either in cursive or print, or with underglaze pencil or permanent marker, or stamped in clay or other material with metal dies, carved name as on the bricks, used a bamboo tool to inscribe in wet china paint. Signature: Early pieces were signed on the bottom; objects signed in various places as on the front of the spacer bar on "Typewriter," 1965; self portraits and portraits of others usually on the back of the neck, with date; small trophy busts were stamped on front with date on bottom; masks were usually signed on the back either incised in the clay or with an underglaze pencil. There were many variations: "Smorgi-Bob," 1971, is stamped on the chef’s jacket as a name tag; "Captain Ace," 1978, is stamped on the front of the bomber jacket on lower right side; "Casualty in the Art Realm," 1979, a large floor piece is signed and dated near the the right foot with a bamboo tool; "Nasal Flat," 1981, is inscribed on the right side of the back of the neck; "California Artist," 1982, is stamped on the “denim” tab on bottom of jacket on the back. (From Sandra Shannonhouse, January 2016)

Margaret Pennington Collection
Margaret Pennington Collection
1978
A Question of Measure or Checkered Plate or Vitruvian Man
Date: 1978
Form: Plate
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze, Luster
Margaret Pennington Collection
Photo: John Polak
Margaret Pennington Collection
Photo: John Polak
Photo: John Polak
Brick Pair
Date: 1969
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built
Courtesy Elaine Levin Archives University of Southern California
Photo: Juan Martinez
Courtesy Elaine Levin Archives University of Southern California
Bottle Vase
Date: 1959
Form: Bottle
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC, Gift of Theodore Cohen
Photo: Renwick Gallery
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC, Gift of Theodore Cohen
Short Stop
Date: 1965
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Overglaze
Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York
Photo: Ed Watkins
Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York
John Figure
Date: 1965
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Stoneware
Surface Technique: Glaze
Robert Arneson Trust
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Robert Arneson Trust
Goldfinger Trophy
Date: 1965
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Hand Built, Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
Photo: Adam Reich
Typewriter #1 (Touch System)
Date: 1965-1966
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Hand Built
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Gift of the artist
Photo: Ben Blackwell
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Gift of the artist
Flower Pot
Date: 1967
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Photo: Bonhams
A Point of Balance You Should Look For
Date: 1970
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Cast
Surface Technique: Celadon
Photo: Brian Gross Fine Art
A Cup of Coffee Empty Version (Illusion Cup)
Date: 1970
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
Robert Arneson Trust
Photo: Michelle Maier
Robert Arneson Trust
Fragment of Western Civilization
Date: 1972
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Terra Cotta
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold (Individual bricks were press molded then mortared together.)
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
Photo: National Gallery of Australia
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
Classical Exposure
Date: 1972
Photo: Alex Jamison
Captain Ace
Date: 1978
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold
Surface Technique: Glaze
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Photo: Stedelijk Museum
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Vince
Date: 1978
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold, Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Photo: eeve-inkeri
Casualty in the Art Realm
Date: 1979
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze, Underglaze
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California
Photo: Sherrill & Associates, Inc.
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California
Trophy Bust
Date: 1978
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Cast, Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Robert Arneson Trust
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Robert Arneson Trust
Klown
Date: 1978
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold, Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze
Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa
Photo: Des Moines Art Center
Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa
Nasal Flat
Date: 1981
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold, Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze, Underglaze
Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Miami, Florida, Gift of Mr. amd Mrs. Joseph D. Shein
Photo: Horace Bristol
Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Miami, Florida, Gift of Mr. amd Mrs. Joseph D. Shein
Portrait of George
Date: 1981
Form: Sculpture
Method: Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze, Underglaze
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Photo: Ian Reeves
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Study for Sculpture, California Artist
Date: 1982
Whitney Museum of Art, New York, New York
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Whitney Museum of Art, New York, New York
California Artist
Date: 1982
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold
Surface Technique: Glaze, Overglaze, Underglaze
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree

Citation: "The Marks Project." Last modified January 23, 2016. http://www.themarksproject.org/marks/arneson