ROBERT ARNESON….zuki is amuzed

Art has many purposes. Besides elegance, grace, and beauty art can be used to make social commentary.  This is not a new idea.  Long before ‘Impressionism’ or DaDa-ism it was discovered that Egyptian hieroglyphics depicted sarcasm primarily directed at non-Egyptians.  One important role art can play in our lives is to make us aware of things not so pleasant, even ugly about our societal exchange. We get fired up and perhaps over a cup of coffee generate discussion and debate promoting ideas by way of social or political commentary.  In that sense art plays a very important role, particularly in a free and democratic country.  Further, and for those that need it, art facilitates reexamination of our core values!  That said though, when you morph into ‘curmudgeon-ism’ one tends to dismiss any social change preferring to revel in our routines!  Art is really good for breaking an old person’s continuum.   Here’s an example:

“Born in Benicia, California, Robert Arneson almost singlehandedly transformed ceramics into a major contemporary medium.  In the early 1960s, he became a member of the Funk Art movement, a California style of Pop-Art focusing on absurd images of everyday objects.  In the 1970s, he began using humorous portraits as subjects, and his memorial portrait of San Francisco’s assassinated Mayor George Moscone was very controversial because it included references to the assassin.”   This man was one of several major influences on my work.  The following postings will primarily be about my influences.

Robert Arneson American, b. Benecia, CA, 1930-1992

GENERAL NUKE, September, 1984 glazed ceramic and bronze on granite base 78″x 30″x 37″

“Inspired by the ceramic sculptures of Joan Miro and Peter Voulkos, Robert Arneson turned to that medium in the late 1950s. He quickly developed a humorous style of portraiture, especially self-portraits in punning, ironic, or mocking modes.  Yet, after confronting a diagnosis of cancer, the artist redirected his art in the early 1980s to address nuclear holocaust at a time of escalating armament by the two superpowers. Conceived when the United States and the Soviet Union temporarily abandoned negotiations on arms control, GENERAL NUKE presents a caustic, denigrating stereotype of a military leader. With bloody fangs and a phallic MX “peacekeeper” missile for a nose, the snarling head wears the helmet of a three-star general, which is covered with a global military map incised with abbreviations for the available nuclear weapons: ICBM, IRBM, ACLM, SLBM.”

There’s nothing like facing death to reassess what’s important!

Obviously this anti-war commentary contains serious themes of dire consequences.  Some inscriptions ridicule those who, in Arneson’s view, foster war, while other markings provide facts about the impact of a one-megaton bomb (“Fallout: lethal 600 sq. mi., death risk 2000 sq. mi.”).  

For the one or two of you reading this broad brush, if you look closely even the pedestal is part of the message, for the head stands on a bronze pedestal depicting hundreds of charred, stacked corpses, aka “The Holocaust” resting on a base of granite – ironically a material traditionally used for memorials.

Someone asked me what one of my pieces stood for and I really couldn’t answer her.  I replied back, “What do you think it’s about?”  She proceeded to deliver poignant commentary as to what it meant to her leaving me in a stupor of thought.  I’m working on it.