New York

Robert Arneson


Robert Arneson’s late bronzes erase any lingering doubts that he may have been nothing but a glorified ceramist. Testaments to the cancer that eventually destroyed him, all of them are remarkable for their courage as well as for their artistic power. Most explicitly recalling the photographs by which Hannah Wilke bore witness to a similar illness and early death, they also possess the resonance of Ross Bleckner’s more oblique homages to those lost to AIDS, though melancholy never gets the upper hand in Arneson’s work—no matter how wasted his body, his famous wit and humor never fail him.

As is his usual practice, in these late works Arneson plays hard and fast with traditional sculptural models, taking on the portrait bust in Chemo 1 and Chemo 2 (both 1992). These works are major expressionistic statements, as innovative and moving as Willem de Kooning’s figurative sculptures from 1972.

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