Formula and Chuck Arnoldi have become synonymous. Although his agglomerations of twigs and branches served to define his early paintings and sculptures as a natural antidote to the austere, industrial aesthetic of Minimalism, they quickly degenerated into repetitious design fodder. Arnoldi seemed to recognize this, for the early '80s found him cutting shapes into thick sheets of plywood with a chain saw, as if a more intuitive, visceral process would re-energize the work with some of its lost formal edge.
Unfortunately, this has hardly been the case, and Arnoldi's latest exhibit--a spotty concoction of bronze sculptures, plywood "paintings" and small gouaches--indicates that he is content to coast on a lucrative, highly decorative signature. The show is dominated by "Turnpike," a huge Abstract Expressionist painting on plywood that has been hacked and scored with angled saw cuts to the point of creating real negative space within the picture plane itself. Scale is hardly a viable compensation for vitality, however. For all its angles and rough-hewn edges, the work appears remarkably benign.
The sculptures fare little better, largely because Arnoldi seems unable to make up his mind whether to focus on form and metaphor (open textured, labyrinthine constructions of limbs, branches and floating industrial detritus) or historical homage (direct references to the work of Frederic Remington). As a result, the work tends to fall somewhere between the two, coming off as cute and sentimental rather than fully exploiting potentially interesting structural and textual parameters. (James Corcoran Gallery, 1327 5th St., to April 1.)