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Robert C. Arneson, Bob Arneson

Biography to Display: 

1930 Born, Benicia, California

1992 Died, Benicia, California

EDUCATION

1949-1952 College of Martin, Kentfield, California

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

1958MFA California College of the Arts, Oakland, California

PRIMARY WORK EXPERIENCE

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. Using his knowledge of art history, popular culture and substantial sculpting skills Arneson developed works of ceramic sculpture that comment on politics, sex and everything outside the socially acceptable and that were shocking and offensive to many.

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. Perhaps no other ceramic artist created such a large and diverse body of work, not simply by joining evolving art movements, but by responding to and commenting on the art movements themselves.

In 1962 he was hired by The University of California, Davis where at a time when clay 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. His curiosity and work in other media during the 1960's never weaked his committment to clay.

Figurative pieces began to show up in his work in the early 1960s.  In 1965 he constructed most of a long series of modeled, thrown, and altered 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. The mid 1960's also saw humor emerge as seen in Typewriter.

Going forward he continued to create figurative work including numerous oversized self-portraits and portraits of friends and fellow artists that he had begun making in the early 1970s. Arneson continued to work outside commonly held boundaries of clay until a week before his death in 1992.

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, PA                  

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).

 

 

Typical Marks

Signatures can be inscribed with first and/or last name in wet clay both in cursive and printed, written name with underglaze pencil or Sharpie, stamped clay or other material with metal dies, used a bamboo tool to inscribe in wet china paint. Work was signed in various places: early pieces were signed on the bottom; self-portraits and portraits of others usually signed on the back of the neck, with date; small trophy busts were stamped on front with date on bottom.

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
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Robert Arneson Trust
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Robert Arneson Trust
Photo: Ed Watkins
Typewriter # 1, Touch System
Date: 1965-1966
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Hand Built
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Gift of the Artist
Photo: Ben Blackwell
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Gift of the Artist
Goldfinger Trophy
Date: 1965
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Hand Built, Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Overglaze
Photo: Adam Reich
Flower Pot
Date: 1967
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Earthenware
Method: Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: Glaze
Photo: Robert Arneson Estate
Photo: Adam Reich
Photo: Robert Arneson Estate
A Cup of Coffee Empty Version, Illusion Cup
Date: 1970
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Thrown and Altered
Surface Technique: China Paint
Robert Arneson Trust
Photo: Michelle Maier
Robert Arneson Trust
A Point of Balance You Should Look For
Date: 1970
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Porcelain
Method: Cast
Surface Technique: Celadon
Photo: Brian Gross Fine Art
Photo: Michelle Maier
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
A Question of Measure, Checkered Plate
Date: 1978
Form: Plate
Materials: Terra Cotta
Method: Hand Built, Thrown
Surface Technique: Glaze, Overglaze
Margaret Pennington Collection
Photo: John Polak
Margaret Pennington Collection
Photo: John Polak
Photo: John Polak
Study and Drawing for California Artist
Date: 1982
Whitney Museum of American Art, Gift of the Lipman Family
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Whitney Museum of American Art, Gift of the Lipman Family
California Artist
Date: 1982
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold
Surface Technique: Glaze, Overglaze, Underglaze
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Claifornia
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Claifornia
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Chemo 1
Date: May 1992
Form: Sculpture
Method: Hand Built, Press Mold, Thrown
Surface Technique: Underglaze
SAn Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
SAn Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Swimmer
Date: 1975
Form: Sculpture
Materials: Stoneware
Method: Hand Built
Surface Technique: Glaze
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: John Polak
Judith and Martin Schwartz Collection
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree
Photo: John Polak
Photo: John Polak

Citation: Copyright: art@Estate of Robert Arneson, licensed to VAGA, New York, New York. "The Marks Project." Last modified February 17, 2017. http://www.themarksproject.org/marks/arneson-0