"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Robert Arneson

This 1986 ceramic self-portrait of Robert Arneson entitled 35 Year Portrait appears in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.
"Arneson said that he created his self-portraits because 'I can poke fun at myself, I know myself better than anyone else, and I'm free.' This two-faced portrait head mounted on a column satirizes the sculptures marking the graves of Greek and Roman heroes, and offers Arneson's darkly comic assessment of his own fate. He undercuts an image of classical beauty on one side of the column with a frank depiction of his middle-aged body and shaggy face on the other. He flippantly warns us that everyone ages and dies. On the column, three tic-tac-toe grids suggest the end of the game, and a jagged opening marked "Virgo Springs" resembles a wound or a blackened tumor, evoking the ravages of cancer that eventually killed the artist." -- Smithsonian American Art Museum

The sculpture is located in the Luce Center, on the third floor of the museum.
"Robert Arneson’s two-faced self-portrait is a play on the traditional portrait bust as well as sculptures marking the graves of Greek and Roman heroes and the double-headed Roman deity, Janus. Throughout 35 Year Portrait, Arneson juxtaposed images of his wrinkled, older self with ones of classical beauty, flippantly reminding the viewer that everyone ages and dies. Rather than create an idealized image, the artist offered a realistic self-portrait and a frank evaluation of his own fate. Arneson employed his characteristic wit to tackle this difficult subject matter. He incised the word "huh?" and stamped 'CHUG CHUGGIN ALONG' on the pedestal, both of which emphasize Arneson’s tendency toward satirical self-reflection in his self-portraits." -- Luce Center
The portrait head has a youthful classical face on the front and an older grizzled face on the back.

For a 360° view see 35 Year Portrait Robert Arneson on YouTube.

The front of the pedestal  shows Arneson's youthful nude body.

An on the back of the pedestal we find Arneson's aged body.

Virgo Springs

Arneson ©1986 

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