Robert Arneson was born in Benicia, California in 1930. He received his MFA in 1958 at California College of the Arts: Oakland, California. In his early employed life he was a cartoonist for a local newspaper. He was a professor of ceramics in the Art department at UC Davis for 40 years.
It’s safe to say Robert Arneson was a Californian Artist.
In the 60s, as a lot of radical artistic movements were explored, Arneson developed a new movement in art called the Funk Movement. For Arneson, this meant pushing away traditional ideals for ceramics, in that they must be utilitarian or decorative. This led Arneson into non-functional ceramics like portraits with feeling, humanity, and humor… almost whimsical.
Arneson was influenced by many artists in California and abroad with radical and blunt ideals. This included writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Tom Robbins and William Burroughs, or artists like Peter Voulkos.
California Artist was created in 1982, and is stoneware with glazes measuring 68 1/4 in. x 27 1/2 in. x 20 1/4 in. It currently sits in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). It was a mocking response to an art critic from New York who felt Arneson was too easily pleased with his own jokes. The critic was not impressed by the cultural life of the Californian artist.
It is interesting to note that if one peers into the eyes of California Artist, they can see into the empty head of the stoneware.