Dubbed “The Natural” by critic Dave Hickey, Charles Arnoldi established himself as a significant artist in the fertile Los Angeles art scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Arnoldi grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and moved to Los Angeles shortly after finishing high school. He took up studies at the Art Center School (now the Art Center College of Design) for two weeks, followed by Chouinard Art Institute – which he abandoned after eight months. Despite his departure from an institutional path, Arnoldi quickly achieved recognition and received the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Young Talent Award in 1969.
A visit to a burned-out Malibu orchard would prove fruitful for the young Arnoldi, who was struck by the geometry and texture of the trees’ branches. He gathered sticks to take back to his studio, where he would make the first of his so-called “stick paintings.” As Hickey put it, “Arnoldi’s sticks…bore with them no ‘homage to nature’ but rather homage to the fact that what nature aspires to and always fails to achieve—symmetry, right angles and straight lines…[His sticks] were carefully chosen, exquisitely nuanced, meticulously joined and deftly composed according the argument of the eye.”
Arnoldi’s first solo show was at Riko Mizuno’s Los Angeles gallery in 1971. He would continue to work with his “sticks” through the 1980s, when he ventured into layering sheets of wood and hacking into the surface with a chainsaw. Not limiting himself to a single medium or style, Arnoldi’s output remains connected through the study of abstract geometries – arcs, ellipses, grids, and lines – and bright color palettes. His works are held in institutional collections including the Chicago Art Institute, the Guggenheim Bilbao, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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