Robert Arneson

American (Benicia, California, 1930 - 1992, Benicia, California)

California Artist

1982
sculpture | stoneware with glazes
Now on view in the exhibition Fertile Ground at Oakland Museum
  • California Artist

    Robert Arneson, California Artist, 1982; stoneware with glazes, 68 1/4 in. x 27 1/2 in. x 20 1/4 in. (173.36 cm x 69.85 cm x 51.44 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Gift of the Modern Art Council; © Estate of Robert Arneson / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


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.


68 1/4 in. x 27 1/2 in. x 20 1/4 in. (173.36 cm x 69.85 cm x 51.44 cm)
Acquired 1983
Collection SFMOMA
Gift of the Modern Art Council
© Estate of Robert Arneson / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
83.108.A-B

Tags

men, artists, self-portraits, sculptors, pedestals, bald, marijuana, stomachs, sunglasses, beer bottles


From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.