Kyle Staver “Truth Be Told” @ Half Gallery, NYC

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Half Gallery, NYC // January 10, 2024 – February 07, 2024

In the 1960s, while attending an all-girl’s boarding school called Ferry Hall—this was just outside Chicago—Kyle Staver had a transformative encounter with a teacher named Mrs. Moses. One day the woman said to her pupil, “I know what’s wrong with you. You’re an artist.” And young Kyle responded, “Who me?!” The teacher could tell that her assertion warranted additional context. “It’s okay,” said Mrs Moses. “Art is a whole world.” 

Before Kyle went to boarding school, she was making little bedroom doodles all the time from the safety of her small town in Northern Minnesota, but she had never conceived that a life, let alone a livelihood, could be forged from this pastime. The only art book she’d encountered to date was a big gold Dali monograph which her parents had stationed in their living room. 

In her formative days, Edith Hamilton was Kyle’s main reading source. She authored the classic 1942 book “Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.” It was more drama than a Real Housewives episode could shake a stick at and served as Kyle’s primer to Greek and Roman parables. The stories transported Kyle to another universe of palace intrigue and tragic romance. 

There’s that old joke about finding your way to Carnegie Hall and by the time Kyle got to Yale graduate school in the 1980s she was ready to lean into her practice.  She started off as a sculptor, studying with Siah Armajani. Kyle fancied herself a Jackie Ferrar or a Mary Miss, well, those were the artists she sought to emulate. She was making sited work with small teams of people helping her put them together. At the time artists John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage were also attending the MFA program at the Yale School of Art. 

Her path beyond graduate school was a slower burn. Back then, Peter Halley was the cat’s pajamas. Cool was hot. And it was all male. Kyle returned to her love of fables and began painting again, always with a flat brush. A flat brush kept her honest. She tapped into the absurdity and humor of classic tropes: the damsel in distress, the futility of Prometheus’s plight, how repetition of imagery could serve as a force multiplier. 

Thirty five years later, Kyle Stave remains active in her Brooklyn studio. Writing for The New York Times in 2018, Roberta Smith commented, “In this century’s resurgence of figurative painting, Ms. Staver is a significant precedent.” Kyle was a 2016 Guggenheim fellow and counts the likes of Carroll Dunham and Trey Abdella amongst her many collectors. 

Kyle Staver’s signature if you believe artists can traffic in such things is her ability to capture backlight and raking light or, dare we say, divine light. The glow emanating from Goldilocks as she finds herself surrounded by a sleuth of bears, clutching her Klimt-like quilt up to her chest for protection. Or that hollow of sunshine between the skeleton and his beloved in “Death and the Maiden” as if affection could be manifest as a beam of light. 

https://halfgallery.com/

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