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1930-1992 an American sculptor and professor of ceramics in the Art department at UC Davis for four decades.

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Presentation on theme: "1930-1992 an American sculptor and professor of ceramics in the Art department at UC Davis for four decades."— Presentation transcript:

1 1930-1992 an American sculptor and professor of ceramics in the Art department at UC Davis for four decades.

2 If you are not hip to Robert Arneson and his fifteen minutes of uber fame, here is a tale for you. It’s one for the ages. On November 27, 1978 Dan White, an angry, disgruntled former San Francisco city Supervisor (a Supervisor is akin to a city council person), entered San Francisco City Hall through a window. White intentionally avoided the main entrance and the metal detectors because he was carrying a gun. He made his way to the office of Mayor George Moscone, who had recently refused to reinstate White to his seat as a city Supervisor. He asked to be reinstated. The Mayor refused for political reasons. They argued. (White had resigned his seat under personal financial pressure and had immediately changed his mind.) White shot and killed the mayor in cold blood. White then went directly to the office of Supervisor Harvey Milk, the nation’s first openly gay elected official. Milk had often clashed with White when they were both on the Board of Supervisors. Dan White then shot and killed Harvey Milk, again, in cold blood. It was during this period of time that sculptor and ceramacist, Robert Arneson was commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission to create a bust of George Moscone, for the opening of the new civic center, named for Moscone. The piece that Arneson delivered to the Moscone Center was highly controversial, given his penchant for irony, subversion, humor and wisecracking. Before the big moment, the pedestal was draped in red, so much was hidden from view. And then it wasn’t. What you can’t see on the pedestal, is the imprint of a gun — among other types of marks and statements and the words BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, that reflected on the mayor’s life and tragic end. Many were outraged by Arneson’s piece, but they really should have known better. Arneson was a supreme ironist. He couldn’t have possibly have executed a “heroic” sculpture which is almost certainly what many were expecting from him. In the ensuing shitstorm, Robert Arneson became hugely famous overnight. Check out this 4 minute video: 

3  Starting in the 1960s, Arneson and several other California artists began to abandon the traditional manufacture of functional items in favor of using everyday objects to make confrontational statements. The new movement was dubbed Funk Art, and Arneson is considered the father of the ceramic Funk movement.

4 One of Arneson's great obsessions, self-portraiture is the genre in which he achieved his most playful and inventive forms. California Artist was completed in 1982 in response to an attack by a New York art critic, who cited the "impoverished sensibility of the provincial cultural life of California" and depicted Arneson's work as the "mark of a mind that is too easily pleased with his own jokes." The broken-away facade on the corner of the pedestal reveals ceramic bricks mechanically imprinted with the artist's name — a challenge to the idea that clay is for making dinnerware and bricks but not fine art. Marijuana grows against a base littered with beer bottles and cigarette butts, all mockingly emblematic of a degenerate California lifestyle. Finally, the artist has represented himself atop the pedestal as a shirtless, aging hippie, whose sunglasses are actually gaping holes that allow us to peer directly into his empty head. Arneson speaks about self-portraits (50 sec) 330

5 Arneson not only loved to make statements with self-portraits, but he also loved to sculpt his friends; some of the most prominent artists of his time. He didn’t limit these to traditional portraits. He took them to the next level by incorporating aspects of their work or personality into the structures. Jackson Pollock, 1983 Pablo Ruiz with Itch, 1980 (portrait of Pablo Picasso) Willie Nelson

6  Arneson used common objects in his work, which included both ceramic sculptures and drawings. He appeared in many of his own pieces — as a chef, a man picking his nose, a jean- jacketed hipster in sun glasses. Most of his sculptures are clever visual jokes, but they also have deeper meanings.

7  According to his widow, Sandra Shannonhouse, people viewing Arneson’s work should look beyond what seems to be "edgy, naughty or funny" to find more serious comments about political, social and economic issues. In the case of The Egghead Series, created by one of our most famous professors specifically for UC Davis, the fun is to figure out for yourself what Arneson was saying about life at the university. Even his Eggheads bear a self-resemblance. Among the last works Arneson completed before his death, the last of the Eggheads were installed on campus at UC Davis in 1994. The controversial pieces[2] continue to serve as a source of interest and discussion on the campus, even inspiring a campus blog by the same name.

8 After the artist became ill with liver cancer in the early 1980s, his work became progressively more somber in tone. Arneson's own confrontation with death made him aware of society's flirtation with mass destruction.


10 Design and create an expressive sculpture. What approach would you like to take? o A self-portrait? o A portrait of a friend or relative? o A portrait of a prominent figure in history? Is there some sort of statement you would like to make? A point of view you feel strongly about? What are you passionate about? Is there a strong personality trait you would like to emphasize? Your sculpture will be a figurative bust and constructed to be 8” in either direction. Brainstorm some ideas. Sketch 3 different designs; either different statements or different ways to say the same thing. Discuss the possibilities with me before developing the final design. Print a full page image of the face you plan to work from. Here is your shot at making a statement for the world to see!! Have fun with it.

11 Explore the use of idioms that contain a reference to the human form in some manner and interpret that idiom through a clay sculpture that must be 8” tall. What is an idiom?  -An idiom is a combination of words that has a meaning that is different from the meanings of the individual words themselves. It can have a literal meaning in one situation and a different idiomatic meaning in another situation. Look at a variety of idioms that contain a reference to the human form. When you discover one you would like to work with, brainstorm 3 different ways to interpret it in clay. If you are having trouble, try a different idiom. Print large images of the human form you plan to include. All sketches are due first thing tomorrow. We have no time to waste, so give it a lot of thought tonight!!

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