Editor's note: The Smart Museum of Art provided source material to Resource Library Magazine for the following article or essay. If you have questions or comments regarding the source material, please contact the Smart Museum of Art directly through either this phone number or web address:


Big Idea: The Maquettes of Robert Arneson

July 10 - September 14, 2003


Robert Arneson (1930-1992) sculpted himself as a chef, a swimmer, a classical bust, a kiln, a clown, a brick, Mr. Hyde, a boxer, a dog, and, quite appropriately, a Californian artist. One of America's most original sculptors, Arneson reinvented American figurative ceramics by integratingsculpture and painting in his large-scale, often satirical, and even iconoclastic pieces. While widelyknown because of controversysurroundinghis publicly commissioned portrait of the slain Mayor of San Francisco,George Moscone,Arnesontypically focused onmore personal imagery. By embellishing, distorting, and destroying his own face, Arneson fashioned visual puns regarding his use of clay as a fine art medium, challenged hierarchies of East Coast art traditions, and expressed his personal struggle with cancer.

This exhibition is the first devoted to Arneson's maquettes ­ small-scale, three-dimensional sketches in clay, sometimes brightly glazed ­ left in hisstudio. First produced in 1964, the maquettes offer a unique view into the sculptor's creative process: some illustrate the origins of compositions for monumental works, while others document ideas not realized in large scale. Afew record early sculptural ideas that underwent significant transformation as full-scale pieces. The 75 maquettes, along withrelated drawings and large-scale sculptures in the exhibition chronicle Arneson's evolution as an artist, his freewheeling creativity,and his prodigious imagination.

There will be a public opening reception for "Big Idea: The Maquettes of Robert Arneson" on Thursday, July 10, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., Jonathan Fineberg, Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois, Champaign will lecture on "Robert Arneson's Irritable Subject." Professor Fineberg is a leading scholar on Arneson and the author of Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being.

This exhibition was organized by the Palo Alto Art Center, Division of Arts and Culture, City of Palo Alto, California. Signe Mayfield, Curator at the Palo Alto Art Center curated the exhibition, and Richard A. Born, Senior Curator at the Smart Museum, served as coordinating curator for this presentation.


Related Exhibition "Material Identity: Prints by Robert Arneson"

June 21 ­ September 7, 2003

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition "Big Idea," this exhibition features a vibrant, but often overlooked aspect of Robert Arneson's work. As demonstrated in this intimate exhibition of ten works from the Smart Museum's collection, Arneson's prints frequently reflect imagery and themes that are central features of his sculpture. For example, Brick Suite (1975), a group of four-color etchings and lithographs, depicts a lone brick stamped with the name "Arneson" in various states of wholeness and decay. The brick not only refers to Arneson's all-important activity as a sculptor of clay, but also acts as a metaphorical image of the artist himself drifting at sea, breaking into pieces, aging and crumbling, and dangerously teetering on a California fault line.

Big Idea: The Maquettes of Robert Arneson was organized by the Palo Alto Art Center, Division of Arts and Culture, City of Palo Alto, Palo Alto, California. This exhibition has been made possible through the support of the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation; The Christensen Fund, Palo Alto; the Association of Ceramic and Glass Artists, California; the California Arts Council, a state agency; the Arts Council Silicon Valley; an anonymous donor in honor of the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; John Kottely; the Morgan Flagg Family Foundation; Dominic and Margaret Di Mare; Forrest L. Merrill; and private contributions. Smart Museum exhibitions and related programs are sponsored in part by the Smart Family Foundation; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Nuveen Investments; the Rhoades Foundation; the Eloise W. Martin Fund; the Office of the Provost, the Visiting Committee on the Visual Arts, and the Franke Institute for the Humanities, University of Chicago; and the Friends of the Smart Museum. Education programs receive funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Polk Bros. Foundation; the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Kraft Foods; the Regents Park / University of Chicago Fine Arts Partnership; and the JCCC Foundation of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Chicago. Family programming is supported in part by Target Stores. A portion of the Smart Museum's general operating funds for 2002-2003 has been provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency that fosters innovation, leadership and a lifetime of learning; the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; and the Chicago Community Trust.

Editor's Note: please also see:

and from the Web:

Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Smart Museum of Art - University of Chicago in Resource Library.

Links to sources of information outside of our web site are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and all other web sites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations. Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating web pages see TFAO's General Resources section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2003 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

Copyright 2012 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.