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Saints and Sinners

Exhibition Dates:  May 23 – Extended to August 16, 2014



Tete a Tete,  Pen, colored pencil on reverse side of LP album cover.  2014.



The singularity of identity in each of Pyle’s drawings takes us to a very different place.  On the surface, his cartoon-like characters seem anything but beautiful.  Humor and playfulness are a first reaction.  But his subjects do not simply exist only to entertain. With their epidermis stripped away, turned inside out, we behold visages of a sinew, muscle and bone reveal.  Pyle lays bare the countenance of each, challenging us into looking square on at their disfigurement.  Though not as dark nor as grotesque as Francis Bacon, Frederick Sommer or Joel Peter Witkin, Pyle’s images are eerily compelling and provoking.  In each seemingly twisted manifestation, beauty is the beast.

More images from the exhibition

New City Magazine / Art Review / 6-13-14

 Reviews, profiles and news about art in Chicago Jun 13 Review:

C.J. Pyle/Carl Hammer Gallery - Drawings

 “Tete a Tete,” pencil, ink, colored pencil, on verso of LP cover, 2014




 C.J. Pyle’s exhibition, “Saints and Sinners” is a meditation on detail and texture. To create these complex portraits, he needs only a few simple materials: ballpoint pens, Paper Mate pencils, and LP or book covers. He says no paper compares to that of 1970s and 1980s LP covers and the uniqueness of each pencil in a pack giving him a breadth of possibilities with line. He honed his “weave technique” while on the road as a musician. Between sets and soundchecks, he would perfect the patterns that make up his surreal portraits with the ballpoint pens that were always lying around for set lists. This “weave” came from Pyle’s childhood fascination with rope knots and the cartoons of Basil Wolverton, and he went on to tell me at the May 30th opening that the process is very meditative. One of these works typically takes a month to complete when he works on them for at least five hours a day. Most of Pyle’s works have a simple palette with a couple of colors, but the drawings are incredibly complex. In each work the process is palpable, leaving the viewer with velveteen patterns and faces of braided rope.



 In “I Want to Talk About You,” he layered gouache, light over dark, allowed it to dry and pulled off some of the color by applying and removing tape, revealing a spongy motif contrasting with the overall geometry. “I Want to Talk About You,” pencil, ink, colored pencil, on verso of LP cover, 2014 In “Tete a Tete,” there is more of a felted quality than his signature weave. This is accomplished with Pyle drawing tiny, repetitive circles with pencil. The result makes this piece softer and even more abstract. Pyle’s techniques are very much in tandem with the delightfully compulsive Chicago Imagist style. I think particularly of Jim Nutt’s fanciful forms of the Hairy Who. And like Nutt, Pyle tells a fanciful story in his surreal portraits. In this show, he ponders the saintly and the sinful, the beautiful and the ugly, and it all comes together as a tremendously successful exhibition not to be missed.

 (Carrie McGath)

 Through July 2 at Carl Hammer Gallery, 740 North Wells.

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More images from the exhibition




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