Kyle Butler is a part of the UB Fine Arts Grad Program and currently hides out in a great studio space at the Center for the Arts; high walls, constant peer critique and all the baking tin grown grass one could ask for.
He seems to recreate the Buffalo landscape and notion of urban decay with ease and excitement. His bleak color palette is both endearing and realistic, and on a technical level, his skill surpasses some of our cities long time treasured talent. Kyle is positioned well to exhibit next weekend at the Buffalo Arts Studio with a seasoned professional like Dennis Maher.
BR: How do you describe your work to someone whose never seen it?
KB: I typically show some form of architecture and then comment on specific instances. Basically I use architecture as a stand in for varying degrees of control. A metaphor for having control. If the architecture falls into blight, than we’ve lost control. So we’re talking both the urban level where there’s instance of blight within a city, referencing urban sociology theory, and also on a personal level. Say it’s not a city, it’s yourself. Once you’ve lost that control, how does it affect the next person, than person to person. How does this theory translate on a large scale to urban space and on a small scale, to personal space.
BR: Did you always find yourself in the Rust Belt cities, is that how this started?
KB: I grew up in Michigan, spent a lot of time in Detroit and of course now I’m in Buffalo where there’s a similar atmosphere.
BR: When you started painting, did you immediately start with this subject matter?
KB: I’ve been doing these types of images for a while but I used to talk about them in a different way, reliant on the cannon of art theory. At some point that stopped interesting me and urban sociology started interesting me more. There was undergrad work and then this is grad work – a substantial body of work.
BR: How has Buffalo contributed to your work?
KB: Maybe only in terms that I’ve been paying attention to what the Buffalo News, Buffalo Rising, and Fix Buffalo has been publishing about each pocket neighborhood. It’s not ‘because I live here, I made this piece’. But on an unconscious level, I’m certainly influenced by my surroundings and keeping up with what’s going on; postings on buildings that are in disrepair or new development.
I have been searching around Google Maps, and eventually started using a Google Map screen shot to work off of. Even though I can look up anywhere in the world, I still look up Buffalo. If I was searching the bad parts of LA, I just feel like it would be dishonest and if I went from imagination, the structures would be more boring.
Also, because I can drive to the place I view on Google Maps, I can walk around and really get a sense of place.
BR: In the image with the house and wind tunnel, how do you explain this type of destruction?
KB: Depicting 30 years of blight all at once but as a violent image and so, static and still. There’s no specs of debris. In my other work, there are specs of debris and things that are unfinished so I thought this one was a total failure but it’s maybe more interesting because of it, so still and static that it lends itself to the Time Confusion idea. And it looks like a house being demolished all at once, but if you had compressed the time.
BR: How does your color palette play into that?
KB: It’s mostly acidic for this one. I’ve become partial to wood colors so they appear more but I did start out colorful and thought it looked awful. I painted over almost all of it. The sky was a little more red and the grass green. I wanted the house in the middle to stick out more-so because it was the one house affected by blight. Thinking about these in terms of real estate, if one house on the block becomes affected, how does it affect the other houses?
BR: What genre or movement would you say your work fits into?
KB: I’ve actually got a list of people who do the same kind of paintings that I do. Decay. I try not to think of it as a competition, but as a community of people, although the art world turns it into a competition.
There was a big exhibition in Detroit that focused on cities that seemed to be suffering this type of problem, called Shrinking Cities. The movement doesn’t have a name yet.
BR: What’s with all the grass around your studio?
KB: Well it’s part of a finished work. On one side there’s a bed of grass and then a row of sandbags; on the other side there’s a bed of astro turf.
BR: How does getting involved in what other artists are doing affect your work?
KB: As far as collaboration, it forces me to do things I wouldn’t typically do, like being in a band versus being a solo artist. Mentally it frees me up to be sillier, a little more open.
Exhibit: April 17th – May 29th with Dennis Maher at the Buffalo Arts Studios
Opening Reception: April 17th, 7-11 PM
Artist Talks, Live Music & Performance
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