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Infamous Funk ceramic movement profiled in upcoming exhibition at ASU’s Ceramics Research Center

January 21, 2004

TEMPE, Ariz. – An infamous artistic movement spawned in California’s Bay area during the revolutionary sixties is the focus of an upcoming exhibition at the ASU Art Museum’s Ceramics Research Center.

Humor, Irony and Wit: Ceramic Funk from the Sixties and Beyond will unfold the compelling and often humorous story of the development of Funk ceramics that emerged from the San Francisco Bay area. The exhibition will open with a public reception from 1-3 p.m., Feb. 29, and run through June 5.

The counter-culture revolution of the sixties spawned more than anti-war protests, long hair and flower power. It also impacted all art forms, where rebellion against the status quo manifested new art forms and modes of expression. This movement defined a dynamic period in social, political and artistic upheaval that was influential in the development of contemporary American ceramics.

Ceramist and educator Robert Arneson led the charge of the Funk movement from the University of California, Davis, where, beginning in 1962, he taught ceramics from the infamous TB-9 classroom building. Arneson, known for his work in self-portraiture, brought exciting new ideas and non-conventional attitudes to the field of ceramics that was dominated at the time by more traditional pottery traditions.

Among his notable students were Clayton Bailey, David Gilhooly, Peter Vandenberge, Chris Unterseher, Richard Notkin and Margaret Dodd, all of whom have work in the ASU Art Museum collection. Many of these artists have continued to be influential artists in their own right and helped shape a new generation of artists working in clay.

Curator of ceramics for the ASU Art Museum Peter Held said that a common theme of work produced by the Funk movement was a healthy irreverence toward societal mores, rooted in an anti-establishment mentality.

“The artists showed little respect for traditional craftsmanship and pottery and created work that drew inspiration from Dada, Surrealism, Pop Art and the Beat culture,” Held said.

The term Funk was coined for a 1967 exhibition curated by Peter Selz, now Director Emeritus of the University of California Berkeley Art Museum. The implied meaning was something common, dopey, stupid or low. Selz will moderate a panel titled “Looking Back at Funk,” at 10 a.m., Feb. 28 in AED60, as part of a series of ticketed lectures during the Ceramic Research Center’s Gala Weekend celebration.

Work in Humor, Irony and Wit is drawn from the Ceramics Research Center’s permanent collection as well as other private and public collections. The majority of work in this exhibition is drawn from gifts made to the ASU Art Museum over the years by Jay Cooper, a Phoenix art collector and patron who has had a special interest in the funk movement.

The Ceramics Research Center is located on the northeast corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe. For more information, or to purchase tickets to opening weekend lectures and other events, members of the public should call (480) 965-2787 or visit the museum online at

When You Go:
Location:Ceramics Research Center, corner Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe.
Date & Time:Humor, Irony and Wit: Ceramic Funk from the Sixties and Beyond will run Feb. 29 – June 5.
A free public reception will open the reception, 1-3 p.m., Feb. 29.
Parking:Free parking is available in ASU Art Museum-marked spaces at the south end of Tempe Center, located at the NE corner of Mill Avenue and 10th Street. Visitors using museum spaces must sign in at the front desk in the lobby of the Ceramics Research Center or the Nelson Fine Arts Center. ASU parking is also free on weekends and after 7 p.m. on weeknights.

The Ceramics Research Center is part of the Arizona State University Art Museum, which was named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America. It is a division of The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University. To learn more about the museum, visit

Media Contact:
Jennifer Pringle