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West Coast Funk

West Coast Funk is a movement associated with western USA, notably California. Its roots date back to Pop Art and Dada. Since the 1960s there has been a steady following of artists emerging from that state and even other countries around the world.

Funk ceramics (funk being a term coined by art historian Peter Selz to denote sf bay area art of the sixties for a show organised at UC Berkeley Art Museum and at Boston Contemporary in the 60s) was born specifically at UCDavis around 1965 and whose first proponants were Robert Arneson, David Gilhooly, Peter Vandenberge, Chris Unterseher and Margaret Dodd.1

Clayton Bailey's repertoire includes works which fall under the headings of Kinetic Ceramics, Mad Dr's Laboratory, Animal Sculptures and other titles. The work is characterised by the caricature of man, beast and the ceramic object itself, with a strong dash of satire added for good measure. A good example of this is the Burping Bowl, one of a series of "kinetic hydro-pneumatic objects" that "emits a loud belching sound"...

Tony Natsoulas' work is more figurative, but also quite satirical. His Downtown Plaza Sculptures take an amusing look at suburban shopping centre culture, while other works, e.g. his Lifesize Figures, critically analyze different aspects of society.

David Gilhooly hates clay, and also has a fascination with food excesses, which are expressed and interpreted in his Dagwood Sandwich (which stands over a meter tall) or his Excessive Sundae. His latest works include a range of assemblages - framed mixed media hybrids between sculpture and painting.

West Coast Funk is not only to be found in California, or the USA for that matter. Pamela Irving is an Australian ceramic artist from Melbourne, with a streak of West Coast Funk in her veins. Apropriating well-known national and international icons such as Van Gogh or Fiorucci, her works reinterpret those themes in a light hearted manner.

Pamela's bronze dog Larry La Trobe, who adorned the city square was once abducted, never to be seen again. No-one claimed resonsibility and there was no ransom note, however we can't be sure what went on behind the scenes. Larry La Trobe has been recreated and again adorns the main street in Melbourne.

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David Gilhooly

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