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Art Review: Charles Arnoldi at Rosamund Felsen

December 3, 2011 |  9:30 am

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The creative restlessness aroused by the painting debates of the 1970s is on full display in a fine selection of Charles Arnoldi’s early work at Rosamund Felsen Gallery. Though he would never forsake the form altogether — and is indeed known primarily as a painter today — one can see Arnoldi feeling out the boundaries here in ways that would inform his approach in subsequent years.

Most of the 25 works on view assume the basic form of a painting: that is, a square or rectangular wall-mounted object, comparable in scale and presence to a window. Pictorially, they explore the basic elements of abstraction: gesture, line, symmetry, pattern, the interplay of flatness and depth.

Most of these works, however, are composed not in paint but with sticks, gathered from nature and sanded smooth. Some lie flat against the wall in linear patterns, others reach out a foot or more in gracefully complex relief-like entanglements. A handful depart from the wall altogether: free-standing forms that, in their slender linearity, nonetheless evoke the character of flatness.

The stick works, which fill the first two galleries, are paired in the third with a selection of actual paintings — oil and acrylic on canvas — whose stiff, crowded, overlapping brush strokes resemble nothing so much as piles of sticks.

It is impossible not to see this playful flirting between two and three dimensions as precedent to the graceful solidity of Arnoldi’s recent work, the best of which has a substance, a bulk, that seems to expand beyond the edges of the canvas.

--Holly Myers

Rosamund Felsen Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave. B4, Santa Monica, (310) 828-8488, through December 23. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Above: Untitled work by Charles Arnoldi. Credit: Rosamund Felsen Gallery.