Just In: A Charles Arnoldi Stick Painting

September 2, 2020
Charles Arnoldi | Untitled| 1973 | Est. $5,000-7,000

“In abstract painting, an artist invents a problem and solves it.” —Charles Arnoldi

Charles Arnoldi has been a visual problem solver for nearly five decades. As a student at the Chouinard Art Institute in the 1960s, he absorbed the notion that painting’s time had passed and subsequently struggled to land on a painting technique that could encapsulate his creative vision. It was a post-wildfire Malibu fruit-foraging expedition that unexpectedly delivered his next material: sticks. Arnoldi remembers that the charred wood looked like hand-drawn lines against the sky, and brought some twigs back to his studio.

“At the moment of Arnoldi’s first Stick paintings, the art world could be said to have had a surfeit of stick-art, none of it very interesting,” art and culture critic Dave Hickey wrote in his 2008 book on the artist. He goes on to differentiate Arnoldi’s work with sticks from its crunchier antecedents: “[These works] bore with them no ‘homage to nature,’” he wrote, “but rather homage to the fact that what nature aspires to and always fails to achieve — symmetry, right angles and straight lines — art can casually disdain.”

Working with wood enabled Arnoldi to continue experimenting with line, shape, and color, blurring the boundary between painting and sculpture — “paintings that weren’t paintings.” The wall-mounted compositions provided endless possibilities for manipulating his audience’s view — although flat in appearance, they suggested three-dimensionality in their arrangement. Noted as “almost primitive in their simplicity and shape,” the stick paintings showcase a delicate balance of forms and reimagined use of the line within the history of abstraction.


Biography of Charles Arnoldi. Peter Blake Gallery.

Fensom, Sarah E. “Charles Arnoldi: Problem Solved.” Art & Antiques Magazine. May 2018.

Pelley, Virginia. “The Art of Imperfection.Southbay.

Charles Arnoldi
Painted sticks
Retains Hunsaker/Schlesinger Associates label frame verso
Composition: 23.75″ x 23.75″; Frame: 28.25″ x 28.25″

Provenance: Hunsaker/Schlesinger Associates, Los Angeles, California; Private Collection, Paso Robles, California (acquired directly from the above, 1990)

Estimate: $5,000–$7,000
October 18, 2020 Modern Art & Design Auction

Leave a Reply