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Art Reviews : Arnoldi Branches Out to Bronze

December 04, 1987|CATHY CURTIS

Just about the time Arbor Day commemorative stamps seemed the only possible new form for Charles Arnoldi's tree branch-based art, he got the idea of casting his raw materials in bronze. Welded into sculptures incorporating the molten flotsam of foundry discards, these metal twigs became the alphabet for a surprisingly suave and supple calligraphy on view through Dec. 13 in Cal State Long Beach's gallery and courtyard.

The best of the 20 pieces from recent years on view in "Arnoldi: Just Bronze" are worthy descendants of Julio Gonzales' iron "drawings in space." Stripped and spiked into stiff, fork-like pieces and Tinker Toy networks and stumpy, gear-like strips, the branches form networks with a vital rhythm.

For the most part, foundry fragments provide a whiff of nostalgia or formal oddity without getting cute. An anonymous tiny foot on a pedestal fragment acquires an odd poignancy. A misshapen figure assumes the reverential incompleteness of an ancient Chinese tomb discovery. A mustachioed Remington cowboy head with a tidily knotted neck scarf and an oozing, malformed hat seems curiously noble.

When the ready-made add-ons just sit there dumbly, as in "Empire," it's because they come in big, overly "complete" pieces that don't ask enough questions. The foundry pieces that work--like (in "Bachelor's Hurdle") a trio of wandering asparagus stalks and a smoker's pipe stuck into a twig as if into a rack in the den--hook into the pieces' basic enigmas of mutation and imperfection.

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