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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

John with Art

Photo: Paul Macapia

John with Art


Robert Arneson

American, 1930-1992

In the early 1960s Arneson abandoned the Asian traditions he had followed as a young potter in Northern California and began to imitate his immediate surroundings. In keeping with the outspoken, nonconformist stance of the local Beat poets, Arneson took a taboo-breaking approach to the seriousness of mainstream art, seeking new vitality through exuberant color, wacky humor, and raucous realism. The artist knew that his toilet sculptures were a break-through for this cause: "The image is so heavy you can't see it as form. But it was a great challenge to confront something one wasn't supposed to do, and do it. It was the toughest, most powerful work I could make."
Stoneware with glaze
34 1/2 x 18 x 25 1/2 in. (87.63 x 45.72 x 64.77 cm)
H. of base: 1 1/2 in.
W. of base: 37 1/2 in.
D. of base: 47 in.
Gift of Manuel Neri
Photo: Paul Macapia
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryLos Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "Made in California 1900 - 2000", October 22, 2000 - February 25, 2001

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Collection Highlights: 1945 To The Present", September 12, 1996 - June 1, 1997 (09/12/1996 - 06/01/1997)

Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, "Robert Arneson: A Retrospective", February 8 - April 6, 1986. Circuit: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, 4/30-7/6/86; Portland Art Museum, Oregon, 8/1-9/28/86; Oakland Art Museum, Oakland, California1/1-3/8/87 (02/08/1986 - 03/08/1987)

Buffalo, New York, State University of New York, 1966 (1966)

Davis, CA, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, Out our Way, Nov. 13, 2016 - Mar. 24, 2017.

Published ReferencesBishop, Janet C., Fineberg, Jonathan David and Garrels, Gray. Robert Arneson: Self-Reflections. San Francisco, California: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1997; p. 12, reproduced fig. 2.

Weiss, Mike, "Art that Captured a City's Pain." San Francisco, California, The San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 2000

Mayfield, Signe, "The Big Idea: The Maquettes of Robert Arneson." Palo Alto Art Center, 2002

Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940 Strategies of Being, New York: Prentice Hall Publishers, 1995; pp. 286, 288, reproduced fig. 9.58 and 9.59 (detail).

Drexler Lynn, Martha. American Studio Ceramics: Innovation and Identity, 1940-1979. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015; pp. 196-198, reproduced p. 197.

Fineberg, Jonathan. A Troublesome Subject: The Art of Robert Arneson. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013; p. 56, reproduced fig. 2.16-2.17.

Doss, Erika. America: American Art of the 20th-21st Centuries. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017; p.162, reproduced fig. 103.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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