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Tyler Kline’s cast of gizmos at Rebekah Templeton


Tyler Kline’s Celestial Subterrane at Rebekah Templeton moves the artist’s oeuvre both forward and backwards. With a focus on déclassé materials and the outer fringes of pop culture, Kline stays true to his roots as a street artist, skateboarder and observer of the spaces between people.

Tyler Kline, totem with crumpled tin foil skull covered with orange peel and a body of what looks like wads of cotton and mussel shells
Tyler Kline, full ghost rider totem

But here, and this seems new, he is orchestrating a body of seemingly discrete objects, into a carnival-like theatrical installation with moving parts, motion-activated lights, and an ambiance reminiscent of a traveling Mr. Wizard’s Believe it or Not tent show.  We had a conversation with Kline when we stopped in last Saturday with Andrea (and bumped into Edie Newhall on her way out of the gallery – read her review here).  He was talking a lot about the city and the urban realm and how he thought the work expressed the urban skateboard vibe.

Tyler Kline, a moving gizmo that projects light and shadow onto the wall–very old fashioned
Tyler Kline, detail of the tin can tree

We thought it was that, but not necessarily contemporary urban.  There’s something old Wild West or old wild South in this work that calls to mind dirt roads and watering holes for horses and people’s personal museums in their homes that they charge a few pennies to visitors to take a look see.  In fact the delicate, overlapping and quirky architecture of the pieces remind us a lot of the overlapping realms of puppetry and theater and objects by Tom Thayer in this year’s Whitney Biennial.  While there is a forlorn quality to both artists’ works we don’t think Tyler’s works have a nostalgia for past times as much as they are seeking to make connections between present, past, and future even in work that is not as much narrative as suggestive and dreamy.

Tyler Kline, detail of ghost rider figure with motion sensitive light that comes on when you get close.

Kline, a 2011 PAFA MFA, is influenced by his roots growing up in the South. He’s created what appears to us here as a type of Southern bottle tree only with tin cans dangling, not bottles.  The piece reminds of childhood’s DIY telephone (do today’s kids even know the tin can reference, having grown up with cell phones and probably mostly not eating food from cans?). The tree is a central totem, surrounded by a cast of complex people,  reaching across the empty spaces via draped and knotted wires, each fragile person’s soliloquy an attempt to communicate by idiosyncratic means.

Celestial Subterrane at Rebekah Templeton closes April 21.