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Jeffrey Kyle
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Orlando Magazine
January 2007
Gallery Section

by Lisa Levine

The idea that I'm really interested in is the combat between development and holding on to the past," says Kyle, a Maitland conceptual artist and Florida native who grew up outside Oviedo on a secluded piece of wooded land his family cleared themselves. The Florida he knew and loved as a boy was an idyllic, rural landscape that has gradually disappeared as the land has been carved up, parceled out and developed, and much of Kyle's most recent work reflects his responses to those changes.

Kyle adopted his single moniker as an art student at the University of Central Florida, where he earned his bachelor's degree following a stint at Seminole Community College. His mentor at SCC, well-known local artist Grady Kimsey, had given him a scholarship and encouraged him to begin showing his work at festivals early on. "I'll tell you, once you sell a piece-you become committed," Kyle says. "You become a believer." He later pursued a master of fine arts degree on a full scholarship at the University of Cincinnati.

Kyle has lived in several places outside of Florida, including in Panama, where he served in the Army, but he "always missed what it felt like here, what it looked like here' he says. Since 1990, he has been artist in residence at the Maitland Art Center, living and working in a studio on the Mayan-temple-inspired grounds and serving as a caretaker and general assistant to the gallery staff.

His light duties at the Maitland Art Center, and as an adjunct professor at Valencia Community College, leave Kyle with time in which to pursue his art, which lately takes the form of mixed-media wall-hung constructions with both two- and three-dimensional elements, as well as sculptural floor installations. "I live a simple life, but it makes it possible for me to pursue big ideas," Kyle says. "Everything I do is about ideas. You have your idea, and then the piece follows. And the piece will be technically whatever it has to be to best accomplish the idea. I learn new techniques based on the concept that I'm pursuing."

His latest pieces-which are on view in a solo show at Crealdé School of Art beginning this month-mix digital photography, appropriated images, constructed and found objects, acrylic paint and other media. "I like that element of not being about a specific style or technique, but instead being about a way of seeing' he says.

The imagery of these newest pieces reflects and comments on the Central Florida community, its history and environment. Often, an item in the news is a trigger for Kyle to begin gathering information and images.

For example, the completion of the Wekiva Parkway, the final part in the beltway loop around Orlando that includes the 417 and the newly completed Western Beltway (SR. 429), will involve building a highway through the environmentally sensitive Wekiva River Basin. More than a year ago, Kyle went to the site and photographed trees marked with ribbons to be cut down. As he continued to investigate and explore, the original concept of the piece changed several times, until he decided to depict the Wekiva River environment as it is now, he says, "because I don't think it's going to stay this way." The finished piece involves satellite imagery of the area, a panoramic photo of the meandering bends of the Wekiva as people enjoy its recreational amenities, and three-dimensional extensions of the twodimensional panorama.

This and most of the other pieces in the show focus on the effects of development on Central Florida. "I used to like [development]," says Kyle. "I used to welcome it-but not any more. Because it's not organized. It's not planned."

One of the recurring images in the show is a four-foot-tall house that Kyle constructed of PVC pipes as a floor sculpture. It is modular-it deconstructs into five collapsible pieces--and that feature eventually led Kyle to see a way to use it as an element in several of his subsequent wall-hung pieces. For these works, he took the sculpture on location and photographed it in various environments, endowing it with shifting symbolic significance as he worked to resolve each piece. In one of these, "Buried' several photographs of the house near a wooded area are grouped together. The effect is of a community being overrun by nature, reflecting what Kyle sees as the earth's attitude toward us: "I will bury you. I will reclaim what's mine."

Kyle's reputation as an artist has been building greater momentum since Virginia Miller Galleries in Miami began representing him a few years ago. Miller is renowned for showcasing some of the most interesting currents in contemporary art, and she has promoted Kyle's work and gained him growing exposure. At Kyle's suggestion, Miller entered her gallery in Bridge Art Fair, one of the companion exhibitions during Miami's celebrated annual Art Basel exposition last month, and she decided to feature Kyle's work in an ad she ran in ArtNews.

Not everybody who sees Kyle's conceptual artworks understands them, and that is fine with him. "I just don't feel obligated to do traditional art. That's sort of a freedom of being here in Orlando and being so far from the mainstream art world. You can do what you want," Kyle observes. He feels that the freedom of Orlando's slower pace and less intense scrutiny of artists has allowed him to take paths he might not have been able to afford to follow in New York or Miami. "This is a good place for trial and error as an artist."