New York

Robert Arneson

Allan Frumkin Gallery

Most of us have made clay ashtrays. It is an almost primal manipulation of material—the formation of the useful out of the unstructured earthen lump. Although Robert Arneson reacquaints us with this experience (the archetypal bourgeois child’s initiation into “creativity”), he would probably laugh at any deep primal significance. The “giving of form to the formless,” as if children were little gods out of Genesis, doesn’t sound quite right because it’s too serious. Arneson knows that a medium like ceramics can’t support metaphysical speculation, and he refuses to play his hand with a straight face. He is aware that clay does not carry the history of Western Civilization on its shoulders. Yet, aren’t we reminded of some kind of magical activity where we learned the possibility of arranging things for ourselves, in our own way, and having responsibility over our own making?

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