Charles and Natalie Arnoldi are a father and daughter, both painters, and that’s about all they have in common — artistically, anyway. Charles Arnoldi is known for varieties of muscular and curvilinear abstraction, chromatic architectonics, and mixed media (especially switch- and lumber-based) experimentations with rarefied schematics of cool abstraction. His daughter Natalie Arnoldi is by professional a scientist, whose interests have focused on environmental and marine ecosystems; her evocative and basically realist paintings often depict creatures and scenes related to these pursuits, such as smog, fossil fuel, and sea life. Except for the obvious appeal of comparing their works as family members, it’s not necessarily work that a curator would choose to show together.
But at the Porch Gallery in Ojai this month, that’s exactly what is on. EMS Arts (an Eric Minh Swenson project) was inspired to stage just such a compare and contrast curatorial experiment — and it turns out, there’s a lot there to discover in the pairing. Not necessarily affinities, though there are some surprising ones that emerge, but rather, by contemplating the installation one is prompted toward a more dissonant path that yields new levels of attentiveness to what each artist is up to in their works.
Throughout the rooms, individual works are paired through formal resonances of palette and fundamental shapes — as with the winter-hued “Permafrost” by Charles, a chilly, lightly painterly white and grey composition, hung next to Natalie’s “Disquiet” which depicts in reductive outlines a lonely gas station in a darkened landscape, illuminated by the icy glare of its canopy lighting, whispering about the quiet desolation of its industry. But many of the juxtapositions are starker.
The artists’ two largest works are also paired to great effect — the lavish and jaunty “Trapper” by Charles, a geometric symphony of reds; and the monumental portrait of a shark called “Faye” by Natalie, a luminous and hefty image as much about the majestic creature itself as it is about the diffuse blue gradients of how light behaves beneath the sea. But this instance yields the most intriguing conversation as to their differences.
Though both are directly influenced by their experiences — Charles in this case by the walls of Machu Picchu, and Natalie by the study of marine biology — what they each choose to do in pursuit of interpreting those experiences is where the action is. Where Charles seeks to reduce and universalize a conversation on form and color, Natalie seeks out the poetic aspects and infuses her studies with complexified emotional and optical mystery, literally choosing to show images and living things emerging from fog and shadow.
For more on how the artists themselves see their work as related and divergent, watch a video of their conversation from the exhibition’s opening reception. And if you’re in Ojai before June 16, stop in and take the trip for yourself.
Porch Gallery, 310 E. Matilija Ave., Ojai; (805) 620-7589, porchgalleryojai.com; Fri. – Thu., noon – 5pm, Sat., 11am – 5pm, Sun., 9:30am – 1pm, Mon. noon-5pm, through June 16; free.