Kyle Fokken at garner narrative contemporary fine art

Airway to Heaven, mixed media sculpture

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright 2011 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

When a young child grasps a toy in their hands, it is an object that sparks imagination and creativity. In that same way, Kyle Fokken’s sculptures become a catalyst for intellectual stimulation in the adult mind. Perhaps they trigger a return to childhood playtime: each is fundamentally a toy, a truck, an airplane, a construction crane. Yet these mixed media creations are also idiosyncratic mash-ups of form and function: the operator’s cabin on the construction crane is a ramshackle church – the crane arm protruding from beneath the façade and anchored by a chain that runs through a window, nearly an act of penetrative violence.  The positioning of a house of worship as a vehicle of destruction is a provocative juxtaposition in an age when we witness religion as a foundation for terrorism.

But that impact is perhaps balanced by the contrasting image of another church structure serving as the fuselage of an airplane, lifting the spiritual into more traditional territory, albeit with the same idiosyncratic relationships of form and function.

In other pieces, the stylistic combinations are more complex and subtle, such as the steam-punk anamorphism of  “Uptet (Babylonian Gunship),” a quadripedal creature that seems a cross between a camel and the family pet, but equipped with giant propellers ready to take the steel and wood construction aloft. Mr. Fokken’s work is filled with cultural references, and in this instance it is difficult not see something of the Imperial Walkers from Empire Strikes Back: they have the same tension between awkward, lumbering mass and graceful, intricate design.

The detail and craftsmanship are distinctive, and the found objects that Mr. Fokken incorporates never seem random or haphazard, but exactly the right choices for each piece. There is, however, one sculpture, “Difficult to Fathom,” that stands apart from the rest in this show.  The merging of a church onto a submarine body is entirely consistent, but the dynamic placement of the contraption trawling across the scalp of a singularly annoyed sailor introduces a more straightforwardly comic image of a human face that could also be viewed as self-portrait. Whether or not the head bears any resemblance to the artist, the whimsical depiction of art emerging from the creative mind is unmistakable.

This three-dimensional exhibit represents something of a departure for this space, having devoted itself for years to largely two-dimensional work from its proprietor, Joyce Garner, and a few select others. But this past summer the gallery was renovated so that the space underwent small but crucial adjustments. Mr. Fokken’s work highlights the new environment and suggests a more ambitious mission for garner narrative that should prove welcome in what is already the busiest and most vital visual arts neighborhood in Louisville. 
Difficult to Fathom, leather over wood, steel, found object

Wrecker (Church Series IV), acrylic paint over wood

Uptet (Babylonian Gunship) tempered scrap steel (soup, tomato cans) over wood, acrylic

garner narrative contemporary fine art
642 E. Market @ Clay
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 641-8086
hours: Wed-Sat 1-6, First Friday Gallery Hop 1-9