Due to rising regional and national cases related to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo, will temporarily close to the public starting Monday, Nov. 23. We are not announcing a reopening date at this time.
With its title referring to Robert Arneson's West Coast roots, California Brick expresses a poignant tension. The broken brick reflects the impact of apocalyptic force. While the fissure dividing the brick might refer to the fault lines of Southern California, other interpretations are possible. Playfully irreverent, Arneson understood the freedom that comes from the breakdown of materials and their transformation into something else. But in addition to the liberation that such accidents produce, the work may also address darker concerns. In February 1975, after suddenly hemorrhaging, Arneson was diagnosed with bladder cancer, which would plague him for the remainder of his career. Yet despite his illness, Arneson retained his humor, remarking, "I like to do portraits if they project an attitude." Defiant in its posture, this self-portrait, like his accompanying Brick, launches a persistent challenge to the assaults of nature and the force of convention.