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Untitled (Urinal)

ca. 1963
46 3/4 x 23 x 13 1/2 in. (118.75 x 58.42 x 34.29 cm)

Robert Arneson (Benicia, California, 1930 - 1992, Benicia, California)

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Glazed ceramic
Credit Line: Gift of the Lipman Family Foundation
Accession Number: 2006.20


Evergreen: Art from the Collection, July 23, 2022 – ongoing, Historic Wing Davies Gallery, San José Museum of Art.

Out Our Way
, November 13, 2016 - March 24, 2017, Jan Shrem and Maria Mannetti Shrem Museum of Art/U.C. Davis, Davis, CA

Renegade Humor, February 3, 2012 - July 8, 2012, New Wing, Second Floor, Central Skylight and South Metro A Galleries, San José Museum of Art.

New Year, New Gifts, December 16, 2006 – May 20. 2007, New Wing, Second Floor, North and South Metro A Galleries, San José Museum of Art.

SJMA Label Text

Renegade Humor (2012)

One of the most influential artists associated with the University of California, Davis in the 1960s, Robert Arneson is best known for helping to revolutionize ceramics, transforming it from a traditional craft to a fine art medium.

Unitled (Urinal) is a strong example of Arneson’s early work and demonstrates his embrace of Funk art – a movement characterized by the use of nontraditional art-making materials and off-beat or quirky subject matter. This work is one of the artist’s numerous renditions of toilets and other bathroom objects often featuring gloppy surfaces. Although its title indicates a slight nod to Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), Arneson’s hand-crafted clay sculpture is unlike Duchamp’s commercially produced readymade. Arneson selected common objects for their allusive potential, then responded to them by using an earthy and wry approach. The interior of his urinal is aptly painted yellow and inscribed with the word “smile.” The hand-molded contours are covered with odd details, such as a large eye, the phrase “wet tv,” and “on” and “off” switches. In the making of his first toilet, Arneson described letting ideas flow from his mind to the surface of the work, which might explain these seemingly random embellishments.

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Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:

  • Sculpture Dimensions: 46 3/4 x 23 x 13 1/2 in. (118.75 x 58.42 x 34.29 cm)

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