For Frank Arnold and his artistic ‘messengers,’ an emotional return to ArtHop
For most of the year, Frank Arnold lives on the tip of Baja California. But Fresno keeps calling him back. He returns from San José del Cabo for a couple of months a year. Here he makes art in his Fresno studio, reconnects with old friends and enjoys a respite from hurricane season in Mexico.
Pictured at top: Frank Arnold’s ‘Azul Paseo.’
All of which explains why Arnold, the co-founder of Fresno’s ArtHop and an internationally recognized painter and sculptor, is in town right now roaming his old haunts. And it’s why you’ll get the rare opportunity to see a new exhibition of Arnold’s work in Fresno itself rather than having to get on a plane. It opens Thursday, Sept. 6, at 1821 Gallery & Studios, as part of ArtHop, the monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods. (Most venues are open 5-8 p.m.; check the Fresno Arts Council’s list for updated information.) And for more ArtHop picks from me, scroll down deeper in this story.
Arnold’s beautiful gallery in San José del Cabo — I got to visit once — is listed right now as No. 2 in Trip Advisor’s ranking of “Things to Do” in the city, known as an art destination. The gallery attracts as many as 500 visitors during the city’s weekly Art Walk nights. His big, emotional abstract figurative paintings sell for tens of thousands of dollars. As a leading gallery in one of Mexico’s most popular art destinations, he attracts lots of attention. In the past year alone, he’s done 35 major interviews, including with the New York Times.
“It’s just exploded for me,” he says of his career. “I’ve been very fortunate.”
He does work in three different studios: Fresno, San José del Cabo and Mexico City, where he has a foundry and makes his sculptures.
The 1821 Gallery exhibition consists of nearly 40 paintings and sculptures, almost all of them painted this year. Arnold also brought a couple of pieces he exhibited at the first ArtHop in 1994, just for the sake of comparison.
When I visited Arnold’s gallery in 2011, it was summer, and the streets of San José del Cabo were nearly empty. (Arnold wasn’t actually there at the time — he was in Fresno avoiding hurricanes.) I remember it as an elegant and emotional experience. Arnold’s style hasn’t changed much over the decades. His big, vertical canvases are most often dominated by a solitary human figure, not fully formed, but with a silhouette that includes a noticeable head, shoulders and torso. Many of the works include numbers, letters, words and phrases. He paints with what he calls an “impassioned impasto style,” and his vivid use of color and texture gives each work an often moody, tempestuous feel.
I remember most from my visit the bigness of the emotional content and the quivering, — sometimes furious — sense of pent-up energy in each work. Some were bleak, others fiery, and still others seemed to sort of float there in a cloud of ambiguity, almost daring the viewer to let down his or her defenses and melt into the work.
Arnold has poured a lot of autobiographical energy into his works, especially in the earlier ones. (His reaction to finding out he was adopted was a catalyst for finding his voice as an artist.) But then he found himself called toward what he calls a “deeper-mind” approach, eschewing surface-level details and burrowing down into the nooks and crannies of the human psyche.
“They’re about pure emotion,” he says of these deeper works. “When I go into the studio, I don’t plan what to do. I just start. I don’t think about what color I’m going to use. I go in there and try not to put any preconceived notions into it. I don’t even feel like I paint them, to be honest with you. Afterward I feel like I’ve been in a trance.”
People pick up on that emotional current in his works. I certainly felt it. It’s common for people visiting his gallery to burst into tears. What they’re picking up on isn’t Arnold’s own personal history or psychological state when making a work, he says. Instead, they’re absorbing “a message about themselves.”
Over the years, Arnold has become fascinated with the psychological impact of art. In his book “Your Creative Imagination Unlocked,” he teamed up with a depth psychologist, Dr. Jim Manganiello, to explore methods of self-discovery through abstract art.
Using a Jungian approach, Manganiello has described the figures in Arnold’s paintings and sculptures as archetypes that represent such basic concepts as good, evil and sadness.
“I like to say that they’re messengers,” Arnold says of the figures.
He will be signing copies of “Creative Imagination” at ArtHop, along with his first book, “Frank Arnold: Painting and Sculpture.”
His last exhibition in Fresno was eight years ago, so for connoisseurs of the local arts scene, it is a must-see gallery stop. Arnold has come a long way from those early days of ArtHop in its first location at the Bus Barn. But he’s never entirely left the city where it all started.
“I try to be an ambassador for Fresno wherever I go,” he says.
Frank Arnold at 1821 Gallery & Studios, 1821 Calaveras St., Fresno. Continues through Oct. 27.
Other ArtHop picks
Shannon Bickford explores her German-Russian heritage inherited from her Volga German Mother. Various work expands from sunflower watercolors to digital adaptations from German-Russian wrought iron cemetery crosses.
In addition, the artist gives an illustrated fictional account of the 1941 deportation of Volga Germans, which speaks to the importance of connecting with culture.
Gallery 25 is located in the M Street Arts Complex, 1419 M St., Fresno.
Angela Corbett writes:
Fresnans are invited to help a local company celebrate the release of their new canned wine called Buenas Uvas. The event will take place at Root General downtown, where there will be free samples of the new rosè, giveaways, local art, snacks and a DJ. It’s a chance for people to have some fun, support a new local business and be part of starting something good. Guests must be 21 to attend.
Buenas Uvas is a rosè made from grapes grown in the Central Valley. The wine is a venture by a new company called Lost Cork Wine Co., started in Fresno.
Root General is located at 1424 Fulton St., Fresno.
Spectrum Art Gallery
A trio of shows await ArtHoppers at Spectrum.
“Essence 2”: Jeffrey David Nicholas has been photographing the American West (primarily in color) for nearly 50 years using 35mm, 6×7 medium format and more recently digital cameras.
“Lost/Found”: Mike Phillips says his new body of work mainly consists of objects found within the landscape. Some of the images are organic in nature and others are traditional landscapes impacted by the hand of man.
“Looking Beyond”: Randy Vaughn-Dotta’s abstracts include motion-generated images ones and clearly recognizable subjects where the photograph becomes abstract due to an overwhelming graphic shape or color, or both.
Spectrum is located at 608 E. Olive Ave.
Romain Historical Building
Here’s a show featuring a very worthwhile cause: UCP Central California:
You’ve gotta love a pop-up art venue. And this one’s a first for Desvgn (I love the spelling!), which features professional and student artists and designers. The organizers write:
Our party is open to the public and to all ages. Expect music, beverages, food trucks, backyard games, and artwork everywhere. In case you have not checked our website www.desvgn.com lately, our featured artists for the event will be: Kirk Cruz (pen and ink artist), Michael Frank (digital artist and board member at Sorensen Studio), and Art Sanchez (showcasing his mural artwork).
“The Desvgn Box” pop-up gallery is located in downtown Fresno at 634 Van Ness, right next to Bitwise South Stadium.