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California Brick

California Brick
Usage Conditions Apply
Alternate Title
Robert Arneson Self-Portrait
Robert Carston Arneson, 1930 - 1992
Robert Carston Arneson, 1930 - 1992
Etching on paper
Sheet/Mount: 40.7 x 42 cm (16 x 16 9/16")
Mount: 44.3 × 45.6 cm (17 7/16 × 17 15/16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; the Ruth Bowman and Harry Kahn Twentieth-Century American Self-Portrait Collection
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
© Estate of Robert Arneson / Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York, NY
Object number
Exhibition Label
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.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery