Modeling - Up Against It | Artopia

Robert Arneson

A Closer Look

What do you like about Robert Arneson's Up Against It? Is it the texture that defines the balding man or is it his expression? Notice how the details in this ceramic sculpture hold your interest and make you want to take a closer look. You can just see the man’s hair moving and his face wrinkling up from the impact with an invisible wall. Try making an object out of clay that has a lot of details and textures. This may take time, yet your finished artwork will be worth it.

About the Sculpture

Like Up Against It, many of Robert Arneson's artworks are funny self-portraits. He worked mainly in clay, although he also did drawings and bronze sculpture. By using clay to make sculptures instead of useful objects like bowls he helped move ceramics into the world of fine art. Up Against It doesn't seem serious but it is similar in some ways to a classical Roman bust, so it makes us think about art history.

About the Artist

When he was young Robert Arneson wanted to be a cartoonist. It seemed unlikely that he would be a ceramist, since he got a "D" in his first ceramics course, but he became one of America’s leading ceramic sculptors. Arneson lived in California, where he helped to found the California "Funk" art movement, a form of Pop art inspired by everyday things. Arneson often makes fun of society, politics and his favorite subject - himself.


Write About It

  • Make a list of what you see.
  • How did the artist use the elements and principles of design?
  • What do you think the sculpture means? How does it make you feel?
  • Select two sculptures to compare & contrast.