Robert Arneson

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

California Artist

sculpture | stoneware with glazes
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  • 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


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

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