Robert Carston Arneson
(1930 - 1992)
Robert Carston Arneson was active/lived in California. Robert Arneson is known for funk ceramic pop image ceramics, mixed media.
Robert Carston Arneson
Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in Benicia, California, Robert Arneson almost singlehandedly
transformed ceramics into a major contemporary medium. In the
early 1960s, he became a member of the Funk Art movement, a California
style of Pop-Art focusing on absurd images of everyday objects.
In the 1970s, he began using humorous portraits as subjects, and his
memorial portrait of San Francisco's assassinated Mayor George Moscone
was very controversial because it included references to the assassin.
Biography from Modern Art Dealers
a young man, he was a high school art teacher, who was assigned the
teaching of pottery making and, becoming intrigued by its
possibilities, he stayed just a step ahead of his students.
Within a few years, he realized that clay was his medium, but he did
not view it in the conventional way of making pots. He wanted to
explore the organic and functional qualities of the material itself,
and in this approach, was influenced by Peter Voulkos.
his pieces ironic titles and incorporated graffiti, giving him an
opportunity to play whimsical games with the work. In the 1970s,
he began using humorous portraits as subject matter, sculpting his
friends, heroes, and himself--all with ironic comments on the human
condition. His works also became increasingly larger, making them
a combination of sculpture and ceramics, and with his introduction of
colored glazes, he was part of a generation that integrated painting
For many years, Arneson taught at the
University of California-Davis, where he influenced many young
artists. He died in 1992 from a long battle with cancer that had
begun in 1975. This ill health darkened the tone of his clay works, and
many of them took on issues such as nuclear war, assassins, and
Thomas Albright, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area
Docent Files, Phoenix Art Museum
Robert Carston Arneson (1930 – 1992) was born in Benicia, California, a small coastal town located North of the Carquinez Strait in the San Francisco Bay Area. Arneson is widely-admired for his groundbreaking work in ceramics, which he believed should not be constrained by utilitarian concerns.
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Robert Arneson exhibited artistic talent at a very young age.
This willingness to break boundaries and the wry sense of humor that infuses much of his art brought him notoriety as being among California’s “Funk” artists. Robert Arneson created several self-portraits in mixed media, including mirrors, photography and drawings, each of which presented the artist in a different way and, sometimes, seemed to suggest a different personality.
A studied artist, however, Robert Arneson was the recipient of a Master’s of Fine Arts from Mills College in 1958. By 1962, he was serving as the Head of the UC Davis Ceramics Department, and he became a full professor of ceramics at UC Davis in 1973.
Robert Arneson, though known for his irreverence and forever associated with the groundbreaking art of California, had a somber side that expressed itself in his later works. In the 1980’s, he suffered with liver cancer and the darkness of that time is reflected in his works of that era.
Robert Carston Arneson passed away Nov 2, 1992 at his home in Benicia, CA. He was 62 years old.
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