With lustre glaze, inscribed EAR PIECE/91.37.5.
Dimensions 15in x 25in (38cm x 63.5cm)
Robert Arneson, the father of the Funk Ceramics movement came by this much-deserved title through a likely turn of events, former cartoonist turned conventional potter, Arneson had met Peter Voulkos in 1958 or so and had been aware of the unusual pottery philosophies at Otis. Perhaps unconsciously motivated, he manifest a more radical approach to throwing in 1961, when at a public demonstration of wheel throwing, he created a bottle-form vessel, complete with clay cap which he labeled NO RETURN, signifying both the slogan of the object and his own future as an artist. After moving to Davis, California in 1962, to teach design at the College of Architecture, he established a ceramics department, and in 1963, produced his first controversial work: Funk John. Participating in a state sculpture exhibition in Oakland, he created the sculpture of a fur-seated ceramic toilet complete with fecal handle and bowl contents. Irrevent, Dadaesque in the manner of Duchamps, and sure to shock the establishment, it succeeded and was removed from the exhibition. It is said that nothing succeeds like controversy, so a series of related sculptures ensued. The new path of anti-stablishment sculpture was a winding one with some works celebrating the everyday object in clay, some more fantastic, but all celebrating the idea that the artist is free to use the clay as he chooses, from a utilitarian-orientation or not. THe 1960's, 70's and 80's social movements of Antiwar, Antinuclear and Antiviolence were all commented on through the medium of clay.
In the 1970's portraiture became his new interest. A more tradition fine art genre one could not find, but in Arneson's deft hand, new ideas were infused into the Art of the Bust. His favorite subject became himself, in all guises, flattering or otherwise, his wry commentary always apparent. The above work, Ear Piece was from the last years of Arneson's life. The double face portrait of a man licking his own ear. His work is in the following collections: The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois Australian National Gallery, Canberra Berkeley Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley The Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio Denver Art Museum, Colorado Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC The Jewish Museum, New York, New York Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, Japan The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan The Oakland Museum, California Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California Seattle Art Museum, Washington The St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York Exhibition: Self Reflections, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA. February 14th - May 13th 1997
Catalogue ISBN 0-918-471-39-7, Ear Piece is shown on p.53, plate 27.
Provenance: Dorothy Goldeen Gallery, Los Angeles, California, 1992
Cf.Literature: Jo Lauria, Color and Fire: defining Moments in Studio Ceramics 1950-2000, exhibition catalogue Los Angeles County Museum of Art, June 4-September 17, 2000, p. 166-169, for examples and discussion of Arneson's contribution. Clay Today, Martha Drexler Lynn, Contemporary Ceramists and their work, exhibition catalogue, Los Angered County Museum of Art, 1990, pp.35-37 for a discussion of Arneson's career.