The Dictionary of American Studio Ceramics, 1946 Onward
The Dictionary of American Studio Ceramics, 1946 Onward
1930 Born, Benicia, California
1992 Died, Benicia, California
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.
Aichi Prefectural Ceramic Museum, Seto, Japan
Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, Arkansas
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, Alabama
Boise Art Museum, Boise, Idaho
Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park, Florida
Davis Art Center, Davis, California
De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts
Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado
Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York
Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fresno, California
Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, Hawaii (formerly The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii)
Lewis Foundation, Richmond, Virginia
Lowe Museum of Art, University of Miami, Florida
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis,Tennessee
Montreal Museum of Decorative Arts, Montreal, Canada
Mildura Arts Center, Mildura, Australia
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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
Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Pollock-Krasner Study Center, East Hampton, New York
Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin
Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California
Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Shigaraki, Japan
St.Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkley, California
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Frederick Weisman Art Foundation, Malibu, California
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).
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.
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
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