Nino Mier Gallery is thrilled to present Light Catcher, an exhibition by Brooklyn-based artist Kyle Staver on view in Brussels from February 24 – March 25, 2023. Our first solo exhibition with the artist, a suite of new paintings, drawings, and clay reliefs will span both galleries, located at Rue Ernest Allard 25 and Rue Ernest Allard 41.
Engaging with the beautiful and the grisly of canonical Western narratives in equal measure, Staver finds her inspiration in sources ranging from the Bible to ancient Greek mythopoetic traditions. Across her works, we find recognizable figures gripped in the throes of their trials and passions. Odysseus finds—then leaves—Calypso’s sandy shores, Ganymede plummets through a stormy night sky, and Europa falls off the back of her captor, the minacious, lascivious bull. In other works, the artist personifies a series of virtues including Charity, Justice, and Fortitude, among others, developing a tradition of iconography stemming from early Christian manuscript illumination.
Despite working with stories that have been re-told throughout centuries, Staver cultivates an enigmatic atmosphere within her paintings—both formally and narratively. As Dan Nadel put it in Artforum: “Her sources are the urtexts of patriarchy, but Staver often flips the script” to offer intelligent re-imaginings of stories enshrined in ancient archetypes. The paintings therefore traffic in a kind of narrative uncanny, as the stories to which they refer are simultaneously familiar and new or unsettling. “There is so much expressive opportunity in the space between what is expected and what is actually there,” Staver explains. “Allowing the painting to slip its moorings, without completely losing sight of the mothership, is when painting is the most thrilling for me.”
Before starting a painting, Staver contemplates which moments in a given story are most captivating, and works on preparatory drawings and reliefs. Beginning with ink, watercolor, and pencil drawings, Staver finds the ideal tonal scale and composition suited to her interpretation of the original text. Her three-dimensional reliefs, in turn, offer a physicality that further immerses the artist in the world of her paintings. Staver’s focus on repetition and cross-mediality reflects the discursive nature of her source narratives, as stories that have been re-told throughout centuries.
Shadow and light are opposing properties that comprise both content and form within Staver’s work. Nightfall and daybreak become personified in Dusk (2022) and Dawn (2022), wherein crowned goddesses shepherd in nighttime and morning amid angels in the sky. Further, Staver captures critical moments within these narratives in her tenebrous yet vibrant color palettes. Luminosity is frequently relegated to the margins of Staver’s shadowy forms. In Calypso and Odysseus (2022), for instance, both figures are rendered in muted color palettes, with stark, salmon-colored highlights flecking the curve of his arm, bent to shield an invisible sun, and the curve of her breast as she sits plaintively next to him.
Staver’s shadows decenter her figures as the key features of her paintings, instead representing them as one of many components within larger narrative climates. In Calypso and Odysseus III (2022), both figures are depicted from behind as they pass through a palm-lined strait. However, a monkey on Calypso’s shoulder stares nakedly at the viewer. To its left, an American flag hangs from Odysseus’ boat, recalling the American Eagle gripping Ganymede in Staver’s distillation of the story. Such focal shifts and anachronisms register an important feature of folklore, one Staver runs with freely: it is protean rather than fixed, changing throughout time to reflect shifting cultural conditions.
Kyle Staver (b. Virginia, MN, lives and works in New York) earned her BFA from Minneapolis College of Art and Design and her MFA from Yale University. In 2015, she was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Prize. She has had solo exhibitions at Moskowitz Bayse, Los Angeles; Half Gallery, New York; Zürcher Gallery, New York; Galerie RX, Paris; Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects, New York; among many others. Her work is in the collections of the National Academy of Design (New York), The American Academy of Arts and Letters (New York), The National Arts Club (New York), The McEvoy Foundation (San Francisco), and Portland Community College (Portland, Oregon). Staver is also recognized as a distinguished member of the National Academy of New York.