Robert Arneson. Toilet Manifesto
Funk John (1963), a dirty white stoneware toilet with bright ooze swelling out the tank and red ceramic turds, was Robert Arneson’s first ceramic toilet. Pushing the boundaries of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade Fountain (1917; replica 1964, Tate Modern), Arneson declared his presence in the work through finger-pinched and pushed clay. The piece was a kind of manifesto for Arneson: “I had finally arrived at a piece of work that stood firmly on its ground. . . . It was vulgar. I was vulgar.”1 Like Duchamp’s Fountain, Funk John was removed from its first exhibition and eventually destroyed (one of his students bought the piece, and her husband smashed it to pieces). Between 1963 and 1966, Arneson made a series of toilet-themed works, including stoneware, sketches, a painting, and a lithograph, many of which included writing and graffiti-like imagery—as in the large eye on Untitled (Urinal) (ca. 1963)—that became prevalent in his work.
Jonathan Fineberg, A Troublesome Subject: The Art of Robert Arneson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 54. ↩︎