Charles ARNOLDI, Untitled Enlarge 1 /1


United States of America born 1946

Untitled 1974 Materials & Technique: sculptures, assemblage of tree branches

Primary Insc: signed and dated verso u.l., fibre-tipped pen, "ARNOLDI 1974"
Dimensions: 201.0 h x 246.5 w x 28.2 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1974
Accession No: NGA 75.663
Image rights: © Charles Arnoldi
  • Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles;
  • from whom bought by the Interim Council of the Australian National Gallery, November 1974

Untitled 1974 dates from Arnoldi's more austere phase of wall-relief wood sculptures of the mid-1970s. As was suggested by a commentator at the time, his use of branches during this period is akin to 'drawing in space', the works described as possessing an 'open linearity, like Pollock's two-dimensional webs'. The linear quality of the elements is accentuated by the ground plane or 'blank canvas' provided by the white wall of the gallery. At a distance Arnoldi's shallow relief pieces can be deceptively two-dimensional, however the shadows that are cast by Untitled on the wall reverberate - its structure increasing the overall visual complexity and impact of the work.

Untitled is one of the artist's most rectilinear frameworks. The branches are employed like building materials, metaphorical beams stripped of bark, nailed and glued in the process of making the final piece. Materials may differ, yet Arnoldi's wall-relief sculpture can be seen in relation to other works in the National Gallery's collection such as those by the British sculptor Nigel Hall which are constructed from painted aluminium rods, including Trinity (1978).

More telling, however, is the artist's admission that, 'in the back of my mind I always had this love for painting. When I think of art, I always think of paintings. I never think about sculpture.' This claim suggests that in the context of the collection, Untitled may also be seen to engage in a dialogue with fellow American Al Held's near-contemporary painting Skywatch II 1972. Both utilise 'line' to suggest geometric forms and volumes thereby creating a myriad of visual paradoxes and spatial ambiguities to challenge the viewer's conception of the work.

Steven Tonkin

  1. Charles Kessler, 'Charles Arnoldi at Wilder', Art in America, vol.62 no.3, May-June 1974, p.113
  2. Charles Arnoldi quoted in Joan Quinn, 'California Color: Charles Arnoldi', Andy Warhol's Interview, vol.9 no.6, June 1979, p.52

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra