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Robert Arneson's series of 1992 bronze self-portraits, as installed at UCSF, Parnassus Campus.


1. Four bronzes by Robert Arneson, 1992. L-R:

Base for Easy Listening, 60 x 22 1/2 x 24

Pedestal for Self-Evaluation, 56 x 24 x 22 1/2

Column for a Toupee, 56 1/2 x 23 1/2 x 23 1/2 

Head Stand for Naught, 56 x 24 x 23

2. A set of the bronzes installed at the University of California, San Francisco, Parnassus Campus, Saunders Courtyard.

In the last decades of his life, Robert Arneson began using bronze both for the versatility of the medium and its usefulness in public installations. As he was forced to consider his own mortality, in light of his declining health, Arneson’s self portraits in particular became a way for him to question his place in the art historical canon. He explained in 1991, "I've always done Robert Arneson because - from one point of view - if you're going to abuse someone, it had better be yourself... but this self is not the inner self. You end up acting, becoming someone else, although you use your own features."


There are obvious parallels in Arneson's work with Greek and Roman statuary, the formalism of his common format of bust set atop a pillar for instance, though the weighty, permanent nature of bronze lends itself well to such a comparison. The trope of a classical column became a frequent one; here Arneson puns on the structure, inserting his head in a self-reflexive gesture, posing as a "Base," "Column," "Pedestal," or "Head" in turn. This group of four columns dates from 1992 - a set was installed on the UCSF Parnassus campus in 2000.


Arneson created approximately 100 works in bronze throughout his career. He first began using the medium in the early 1960s at UC Davis, completing some 18 unique works at the University foundry. However he returned to casting after meeting Mark Anderson of the Walla-Walla Foundry, and they went on to produce over 80 works from 1980, up to Arneson's death in 1992. 


Read more on Arneson's life and work here.