Tony Natsoulas About Curating Contact

Portrait of Robert Arneson by Tony Natsoulas

Ceramic Sculpture
96" x 22 x 28

Arneson was born in Benicia, California, then a small blue-collar town. He graduated from Benicia High School and spent much of his early life as a cartoonist for a local paper. Arneson studied art education in Oakland, California and went on to receive an MFA in 1958.

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."

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 sunglasses.

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 continue to serve as a source of interest and discussion on the campus, even inspiring a campus blog by the same name.

One of Arneson's most famous and controversial works is a bust of George Moscone, the mayor of San Francisco who was assassinated in 1978. Inscribed on the pedestal of the bust are words representing events in Moscone's life, including his assassination: the words "Bang Bang Bang Bang" and "Harvey Milk Too!" are visible in on the front of the pedestal.

Photo by Izzy Schwartz.