By turns, Kyle Butler’s newest body of work evokes mounds of hair, lawn clippings, and cross sections of endless skeins of yarn. Roil, on view now at Nina Freudenheim Gallery, sees the young artist making dramatic leaps forward from the architectural abstraction exacted upon raw wood surfaces that earned him a place in the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Burchfield Penney Art Center. This previous style, calling to mind sheets of glass and Rauschenbergian swipes of color, impacts his newest work, which in turn reminds us why Butler is one of the most interesting artists working in Buffalo today.
Each painting within Roil carries its own distinct wind. The pieces are cultivated through an intricate melange of layered paint and thin strips of painter’s tape; the former is applied to wood surfaces via an air compressor, and the latter is removed by hand with surgical precision. This process not only allows for the delicacy of each make to be seen by its removal, but it also allows for each painting to sing through its distinct, disjoined and layered chromatic strata. The product of this highly choreographed process is haunting, with marks rolling across each surface, buffeted along by a breathless wind.
Several pieces within the exhibit move beyond the wind, and the fleeting oceanic feeling of dissolve, and begin to inch back toward feeling solid. Concrete, even. With work such as Lean Into It, it is easier to tease out the origins of this exhibit, working forward from Butler’s formerly firm abstraction. Lean Into It presents the same process as other, multifarious paintings in the exhibit, but upon closer reading, and the mental reflex of trying to read order from chaos, it begins to dissolve into a cutaway piece of a map. This map, specifically, evokes the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and the ways in which they are connected. From this close read the gestures and dashes in either distinct body can be understood as roads and tunnels. This visual noise, read as if from above on Google Maps, smacks hard against the damp grey field held in the rest of the painting’s composition.
Even when architectural, as in the reading of roads and bridges, Butler’s paintings continue to evoke a profound softness. These roads and tunnels – similar to the ones we traverse each day – move our eye along and through not only this piece, but each within the show; by this act, the body is never far from Butler’s work. In abstraction, and direct removal of the author’s hand from each painting, Butler allows us to fall even further into his paintings. In the process of falling, we are shorn of individual identity, and are all pushed deeper and further along by an invisible wind.
Kyle Butler: Roil is on view now at Nina Freudenheim Gallery. More information about this exhibit can be found at ninafreudenheimgallery.com
Lead image: Parsing Spilled Contents