Earthenware; ht. 2.25, dia. 14 in.
Arneson signature incised on reverse.
Robert Arneson was an American sculptor and professor of ceramics in the Art Department at UC Davis for nearly three decades and is considered the foremost American sculptor of his time. In the 1960s, Arneson began to abandon the traditional manufacture of functional items in favor of using everyday objects to make confrontational statements. The new movement was dubbed “Funk Art” and Arneson is considered the father of the ceramic Funk movement. Arneson's fame is far-reaching and his works can be found in public and private collections around the world, including the Chicago Art Institute, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, New York City), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Kyoto, Japan), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.
Finger Plate and the following teapot New South Wales / Yes, Botony by Tea both come from the 1960’s key phase of Robert Arneson’s career, seditious funk works that remain the most provocative and unsettling of his works despite their dry and dark humor. More and more, the fine arts are being drawn to this once undervalued aspect of his art (see essay at the front of this catalog).
Fingers have a fetishistic presence in Arneson’s work from ‘giving the finger’ to picking his nose in some self-portraits, this digit makes frequent and usually impolite appearances. They crawl out of Toaster, 1964, his chilling commentary on the horrors of the holocaust, act as the flushing lever in Herinal, 1965-71 and give name to his Goldfinger Trophy, 1965. This plate, with its disembodied finger is witty and creepy at the same time. Among other things it comments sardonically on the art community’s view of ceramics then as a simple craft, akin to finger painting.
Exhibited: Robert Arneson: From the 60s, Brian Gross Fine Art, San Francisco, CA February 14 - March 29, 2008;Arneson and the Object, George Adams Gallery, New York, NY January 6-February 26, 2005.