Blue Line Gallery features art by students of famed ceramicist

Artists studied under ‘father of ceramic Funk movement,’ Robert Arneson
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Ceramic funk artist Robert Arneson left an indelible impression on students within the walls of a corrugated metal building known as TB-9 on the University of California at Davis campus.

Arneson taught in the studio for 30 years where he inspired many students who went on to make great art in all mediums, said Roseville Arts consultant Tony Natsoulas. The sculptor retired in 1991.

“His students in turn took the torch and made their own breakthroughs in teaching and artwork,” said Natsoulas, himself an Arneson mentee.

Local art lovers have an opportunity to see firsthand the profound mark left by this teacher on his students with the exhibit TB-9: The Arneson Legacy at Blue Line Gallery in Roseville, which runs through Nov. 26.

Gallery Operations Associate Aleksander Bohnak earned his masters of fine art at UC Davis and worked in the TB-9 studio.

“(TB-9) has this legacy, especially among the ceramics community in the Sacramento area,” he said.

Arneson taught at the university from 1962 to 1991, alongside notable artists Roy de Forest, Manuel Neri, William T. Wiley and Wayne Thiebaud.

Arneson is considered the father of the ceramic Funk movement, which was inspired by popular culture of the 1960s and 1970s and often manifested itself in quirky and humorous pieces. These Funk artists rejected the Abstract Expressionism movement that gained popularity post World War II.

“Robert Arneson was a groundbreaking artist who put ceramic sculpture on the map with controversy and humor,” Natsoulas said.

He died in 1992.

Humor can be found in many of the pieces on display in the Blue Line exhibit, including a sculpture by Philllip Hoffman called “General Motors” and the piece “Roy de Forest dreaming of French pastries” by Jeff Nebeker.

“I love the diversity of the work,” Bohnak said. “I think there is so much playfulness and variety, which is the characteristic of Arneson.”

The exhibit features about 60 pieces by 20 artists.

“I really enjoy it,” said Blue Line intern Kathleen Mazzei. “I’m a sculpture person and you don’t usually see a lot of sculptures in galleries.”

Some of Arneson’s pupils became internationally known artists, including David Gilhooly, Richard Shaw and Richard Notkin. Notkin has a series of terra cotta pieces in the Blue Line exhibit. Plus, an added bonus for gallery visitors: Notkin will hold an open studio in the gallery through Sunday. He’s also teaching a relief tile design and production workshop Nov. 18 to Nov. 20.

“He’s internationally known,” Bohnak said. “He’s one of the ceramic artists known by all ceramists and one of the few (names) non-ceramicists know.”

Sena Christian can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.


Blue Line Gallery presents TB-9: The Arneson Legacy
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays until Nov. 26, and 3rd Saturday Art Walk public reception from 7-9 p.m. Nov. 19
Where: Blue Line Gallery, 405 Vernon St. Suite 100 in Roseville
Cost: Free. Artwork for sale and portion of proceeds benefits Roseville Arts
Info: Call (916) 783-4117 or visit

Richard Notkin studio hours
Visit the artist in his temporary studio
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 13
Where: Blue Line Gallery

Richard Notkin’s “Relief Tile Design and Production” workshop
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18 through Sunday, Nov. 20
Where: Blue Line Gallery
Cost: $300 for Roseville Arts members, $330 for non-members
Info: Workshop will cover designing relief tiles in clay and other materials, making plaster press molds and casting the tiles in multiples. Space is limited. Register at