Cody Arnall uses his unique vision to approach the mundane and utilitarian objects that surround him. By seeing the potential in these objects, Arnall transforms latent possibilities into new combinations that simultaneously approach a mysterious beauty and a perceivable yet unnamed functionality.
Much of Arnall’s reconfiguring has to do with bringing a distinct “energy, force, and movement” (his words) to the everyday objects in his sculptures, which resemble the assemblage or combine method used by the late Robert Rauschenberg. Untitled (2009), made of three cherry-red shopping carts in various stages of deconstruction joined and extended in shape with a plastic mesh, harnesses a vibrant and almost cyclonic energy. One can imagine the carts being torn apart and inexplicably made anew in crystal-clear slow motion.
Arnall works with both large- and small-scale objects to make his sculptures. Among the smaller of his works is Makeup Case, Foosball Parts, Telephone Wiring, Lamp Post, Light Fixture, Glass Light Covering, Electrical Wiring, Paint, Sawdust, Wood Glue (2010), which is titled with the materials the piece comprises—a device Arnall uses frequently in his work. When asked about using the materials list as a title—something that is potentially quite confusing—Arnall noted, “I do this in order to force viewers to recall the information that is right in from of them, directing them back to the sculptures for further investigation. The title reinforces the primacy of the information and requires the viewers to consult their experiences with the objects.” Makeup Case…(2010) is rendered like a diorama of a laboratory experiment long forgotten—complete with a working yet dim light and a strange vein- or stitch-like wiring—and hints particularly at Arnall’s interest in the paintings and assemblages of the Abstract Expressionists and early Conceptual artists Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, and Philip Guston.
Another of his smaller-scale “material list as title” works, Top Hat, Basketball, Bucket, Gas Can, Lamp Shade, Brush, Conduit, Zip Ties (2011), has an angle of portraiture. The combination of a top hat, basketball, gas can, and lamp shade, all balanced on the elegantly curved edge of an electrical conduit ending in a broom end and sewn together, makes up the beginnings of a Frankensteinian creature.
It’s Right There (2012), another multi-object assemblage, takes on an even more humanlike shape as the title and the composition seem to represent the essential elements of an unknown yet remarkably familiar character in the act of directing either foot or car traffic. While some of Arnall’s sculptures approach the human form, others couldn’t be further from it.
Suitcases…(2010) fuses together four working fluorescent light fixtures and six vintage suitcases covered in an intricate and beautiful camouflage-like pattern comprising name-badge stickers. The composition provokes both conceptual and aesthetic awe with a slight uneasiness, as the work appears ready to fall apart in an instant. Arnall states: “I use awkwardly balanced compositions that seem to want to fall over, defy gravity, spin out of control, or walk away. I force incongruent objects to depend on one another for support by intersecting and embedding them, creating animated arrangements motivated by indiscernible forces and circumstances.”
In Cody Arnall’s work there is definitely more than meets the eye, particularly as his sculptures focus on—through a number of distinct approaches—the tensions between what a familiar object is and what it could be. Furthermore, Arnall’s works challenge his viewers to reevaluate what it means to interpret both objects and artworks, as well as question the notion that things—art, objects, colors—have specific meanings or require definition at all.
Cody Arnall lives and works in Murray, Kentucky. He has an MFA from Louisiana State University and a BFA from Oklahoma State University. He is currently a technician, adjunct instructor, and preparatory at Murray State University, Murray, KY. His work has been shown in national and international group and solo exhibitions including Nashville, TN; Houston, TX; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA; Oklahoma City, OK; Little Rock, AR; St. Louis, MO; and Galway, Ireland.