David Gilhooly

David Gilhooly was an American artist and sculptor who is best known for his irreverent and often satirical works in the field of ceramics. Born in Auburn, California, Gilhooly was raised in California, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. He received his undergraduate degree in art from the University of California, Davis, where he worked as assistant to renowned ceramicist Robert Arneson.

Gilhooly's early work was heavily influenced by pop art and the avant-garde movements of the 1960s, and he developed a distinctive style that was characterized by bright colors, playful imagery, and an absurdist sense of humor. His ceramic sculptures often depicted anthropomorphic animals—especially frogs—which offered a whimsical way to explore the complexities of human behavior and psychology. As Gilhooly once relayed to the Sacramento Bee, “Frogs are more fun than people…You can’t glaze people in colors.”

Along with his mentor Arneson, Gilhooly was a founding member of the funk art movement that originated from the Bay Area’s creative ferment of the 1960s and 1970s. Funk sought to challenge the dominant aesthetics of the time through a more irreverent, anti-establishment approach to art-making. Gilhooly’s work was featured in several group exhibitions during this period, including the landmark Funk show curated by Peter Selz at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967.

Likely prompted by a restrictive diet, Gilhooly began to incorporate food imagery into his work beginning in the 1970s. Donuts, hamburgers, sandwiches, sundaes, and other diner staples became immortalized in clay, and, though he already had gallery representation, Gilhooly was known to sell his works at roadside eateries. He would first begin to work with Plexiglas in 1982, and stopped using clay altogether in 1996.

Throughout his career, Gilhooly received numerous awards and honors, including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His work is represented in many public collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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