Much gratitude to Allan Stone Gallery for allowing their gorgeous, provocative catalog Robert Arneson: Playing Dirty to be made available in cfile.library. If you are already a member, view the catalog, otherwise begin your 14-day free trial!
Above image: Robert Arneson, Oreo, 1966
Robert Arneson: Playing Dirty
Edited by Bo Josef
New York: Allan Stone Gallery, 2012
The friendship between Allan Stone and Robert Arneson will be one of those iconic partnerships that goes down in history. In fact, this exhibition at Allan Stone Gallery is meant to honor the longtime friendship, which began when Arneson dialed Stone while visiting New York. The year was 1964, and in the fall of the same year Stone set the wheels of Arneson’s career into motion by giving the artist his first solo show. Their friendship persisted until Arneson’s death in 1992.
The catalog features the transcript from a lecture that Arneson presented to students at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine in the summer of 1979. Below is a series of excerpts from the lecture.
Several of the pieces from this exhibition will be up for auction. For more information click here.
Slide: Finger Trophy, 1965
Arneson: About 1963, I started doing trophies, forms that were dealing with some aspects of my body. That aspect was still kind of making commentary on the notion of a person being a ceramicist or a potter, and the finger being, you know, the “touch” is so crucial in making forms. So there’s a trophy for my finger— my artistic one.
Slide: China Trophy no. 2 China Clipper, 1965
A: And this is a trophy dealing with Howard Hughes’ giant clipper made out of plywood sailing over. And that imagery is culled from sailor’s yarns of Chinese women.
Slide: Buster Brown Trophy, 1964
A: Next. That’s a trophy for Buster Brown. I did about thirty. I had a whole trophy show and I got trophy cabinets. Then I advanced to the toilet.
Slide: Funk John, 1963
A: This comes about if you’re working in ceramics and you’re trying to deal with the notion of the ultimate ceramic of your culture that as far as you know has no artistic heritage, which naturally frees you from any stylistic derivations. I found myself here with this toilet. And I think I proceeded to make another dozen, but actually the first one was always the superior one. This is still about late 1963. Its life size and it has scatological and surrealistic aspects.
Slide: Call me Lover, 1965
A: I wanted to tell you about when I was in junior high school. And you were calling up a girl and you wanted to make a date or something, or just talk to her and you say, [he speaks in a deep voice] “Hello Jane.” You know,… try to get your whole [he clears his throat] self down into it. Real macho or man-like, rather than [now in a high pitched, girlie voice] “Hi, Jane,….” So there was a phone that you dial, Call Me Lover.
Slide: A Pot of Flowers, 1967
A: By 1966, I thought I should clean up my image a little bit and deal with the traditions of Dutch ceramic flowers and pots. So I did a flower show. These are all about three and a half feet high. And this flower’s in a pot. These are just a few examples from that. You know the flowerpot, still dealing with that inward slant toward, what is the nature of the potter? Making flower pots.
Slide: Big Brick, 1966
A: Along with the house, I was still thinking about the ultimate ceramics and I started making the backbone of Western Civilization, that humble little red terracotta brick. It was about the time that “Primary Forms” were emerging, you know, clean, pure shapes. That’s a large brick trying to be regular. I thought I’d rid myself of the brick, but I’m still making them.
Actually, lets see, 1968… I gave up ceramics for a year and I went to New York and I painted in a loft, like I was supposed to do. And then I came back to California. Actually, what I did in New York was that I painted my house life-size. I thought it would be very significant. Sixty-eight feet long, you know measured it all out. And then I took it back home and burned it. I thought it was awful, but that was my year. I came back and to get back into clay I tried to reacquaint myself with the material and do some of the disciplinary projects that I was unable to do when I went to art school.
Slide: Spiked Tea, 1969
A: A lot of them look like military hardware in some sense.
Audience Member: How big are they?
A: Well, they’re teapots. You know, teapots are about teapot size. Not coffeepots. Eight inches maybe, more or less. And, you know, lids, handles and spouts— all those sexy things.
Read the rest of this catalog today in cfile.library. If you are already a member, view the catalog, otherwise begin your 14-day free trial!