Kyle Farley is all about the visual. In "Countenance," a show of his new work at Redbud Gallery in the Heights, the Texan's pieces reference seeing through their specific materials and the imagery itself.
Most of the eight works are lit, either by a source within, small bulbs on the surface, or, as is the case in the piece "Untitled (New Schwabenland)," a red spotlight attached to it. These lights suggests that he's revealing something, shedding light on some truth, or simply encouraging you to look closely. And there's a lot to see among the large mixed-media works, comprised of found materials, from bedsprings and wooden floor pieces to the images themselves.
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The strongest imagery comes from one of the more straight-forward pieces. In "Untitled (Navajo Swastikas)," there are no lights, no complex parts, just the black and white digital print of a basketball team on wooden boards seemingly ripped from an old basketball court. On their uniforms, the players sport the image of a swastika. But these aren't German Nazis. They're Navajos, circa 1909, before the swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi party. It's a powerful photo, made all the more so by Farley's unique composition and materials.
The ancient symbol is seen again in "Swastika Ball." Here, Farley uses a light box and a photograph of a group of children performing the Nazi salute. This scene is not in Germany, either, but Milwaukee during the mid-1930s. One half of the photo is clearly manipulated, as the children are stiffly raising their left arms instead of their right, and the 80-year-old image is subversively undermined thanks to some modern-day photo technology.
They're big pieces -- Farley showed up with 30 works for the show, and the modest gallery was able to fit only eight -- with big ideas, if not a bit perplexing. Here's this good ol' boy from Cleburne, TX, digging up forgotten Nazi paraphernalia. Though shock value seems to be only part of it. Other works feature images of the Nazis' base in Antarctica, Vladimir Putin, the American eagle, rockets, and oil fields. They're all symbols of power that Farley's managed to diminish, either by exposing their failed attempts, as is the case in "Untitled (New Schwabenland)," the piece about the South Pole expedition, juxtaposing them with unrelated images (in "Rack Rate Rocket," a rocket is flanked by signs for seedy motels), or, like in "Swastika Ball," flat-out manipulating the image himself. Nothing is off limits here.
"Kyle Farley: Countenance" shows at Redbud Gallery, 303 E. 11th Street, now through August 27. For more information, call 713-862-2532 or visit www.redbudgallery.com.