Kyle Knobel at the Harwood Gallery


Oppression-Repression-Depression-Obsession line drawing by Phil Dynan

Kyle Knobel is currently showing in a solo exhibit at the Eleanor Harwood Gallery, 1295 Alabama Street, San Francisco. It is an exhibit worth visiting…but, in context…
Kyle’s drawings in this exhibit are nicely executed. At the beginning of his explanatory talk he showed us a set of keys and told us that everything in his exhibit was found within his home and that each thing had a “story”.. “This is a house key. My wife had it made for me.” It had a pink rubber edge guard. “This is a key to a storage locker. I store things there…” and so on, illustrating the idea that every object had a story.
Having just walked down Balmy Alley and having studied some of the murals there, I couldn’t help but make a comparison in my own head. The story of a key, a “cute” expression, or regret over not using a pointless and outdated camera. . . OR, life and death issues involving complex relationships, intense political/social issues, and international intrigue….like in the murals in the Alley. Maybe if I hadn’t walked down Balmy Alley, I wouldn’t have made such a contrasting comparison. But probably I would have. I think real art has deep meaning and on many levels. Like the murals I’d just seen. Not like the cartoon-style one-liners in the Harwood exhibit.
At the end of the day, I think Kyle Knobel may have a very talented hand at drawing. But I think he is in search of something to ignite a passion for painting. I think he really wants to go somewhere and do something meaningful. But he hasn’t found it yet. And until he defines what “success” means to him, I don’t think he will.

My apologies for this next part. Please don’t misunderstand my intentions. These are two drawings (one above and one below) I’ve done, sorta based on Kyle’s exhibit. These are ordinary household objects that I have editorialised.

Jean Paul's Existentialist Aspirin

Jean Paul's Existentialist Aspirin line drawing by Phil Dynan

They are parodies of the exhibit work….but not meant as “destructive” criticism. They are made in the spirit of the exhibit. My intention was to try and better understand Kyle’s concept, not to mock it. And in the end, doing this work did give me a better understanding and feeling about Kyle’s work.

The first is called: “Oppression – Repression – Depression – Obsession” Draw your own conclusions. The second is called “Jean Paul’s Existentialist Aspirin”. Again, draw your own conclusions.
My Initial Impressions written right after visiting the Harwood: I don’t know Kyle and I just walked into the Harwood Gallery and listened to him talk about his solo exhibit there. I came away thinking he was kind of a repressed individual. He indicated during his talk that he had no idea of how to define “success”. My conclusion, based on this one brief encounter, is that he is a very frustrated artist. He spoke of “painting”, but then qualified that work as “house painting”. Thinking about it afterwards, I felt like he is an individual in search of something to paint, in search of a passion, and someone who is hanging on to superfluous baggage that is further contributing to his repression.




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4 Responses to “Kyle Knobel at the Harwood Gallery”

  1. Glenn Parton Says:

    I looked at Kyle Knobel’s art, and I’m sorry to say that I do not regard it as art at all because it does not transcend everyday reality and present us with a more beautiful and better reality. Instead, it imitates ordinary life, rather like the work of Andy Warhol, who was perhaps an interesting person, among other things, good and bad, but not an artist in my opinion.


  2. Anastasia Says:

    Thank you, Phil for taking the time and being open enough to express your opinion and share the tour with us. My personal opinion and feelings are that Kyle’s drawings are art. They are sketch pieces from an artist who is on a good path, but is still confused as to the next step to express these as fully developed, or a better more widely meaningful expression of deeper concepts. Art does not need to make a better or more beautiful world to be art and have purpose. A sketch book is an important and priceless collection of thoughts and ideas and Kyle’s could come to transcend more levels. At the moment he is at a crossroads in my opinion, and he could get out of the personal universal of his house and take flight if he could find a paintbrush and push the envelope. As you say, my opinion, thank you for the opportunity and the bravery of all, including Kyle for expressing and putting yourselves out there:)


  3. Glenn Parton Says:

    If art does not break with the “ordinary” world, then it has no purpose. In my view Kyle’s works show technical mastery, which is certainly a prerequisite for genuine art, but the power of art, it’s defining characteristic, resides in its ability to question or challenge the established, boring, routine, oppressive everyday world by presenting us with a new and better vision of how to live or how to be. In this respect, art creates another world alongside the actually existing world, and that is its value and purpose in my opinion. If this second dimension is absent from a work of art, then it’s not art as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think, for example, that Warhol’s Campells’ Soup” is art. It might have some other kind of value, but I don’t think it has artistic value

  4. Kyle Knobel Says:

    Phil thank you for your visit as well as this review of my show and talk. As an artist, being a part of the cultural dialogue is everything. Even when a discussion is ‘bad’ is it good, so to speak.

    Phil writes, ‘I think real art has deep meaning and on many levels. Like the murals I’d just seen. Not like the cartoon-style one-liners in the Harwood exhibit.’

    This qualifying as what is real art, is an endearing topic, revisited ad nauseam. I don’t engage with it, nor in a larger sense do I know what the question is really asking. But in comparing my work to the Balmy Alley murals he just visited is a bit apples to oranges – brightly colored, large scale, social commentary murals to my mostly small scale, fine detailed and subtle pictorial stories. The playing field for comparison is decidedly uneven.

    To the ‘one-liners’ reference, I reference the minimalist strategies of the Haiku and Zen Koan, as well to as the visual text-based art of Ed Ruscha. A non-maximalist approach does not necessarily connote a shallow path.

    Phil’s surmises that, ‘I think Kyle Knobel may have a very talented hand at drawing. But I think he is in search of something to ignite a passion for painting.’ Well, High Life is essentially a drawing show. It is more productive to focus on what is, not what we wish for it to be.

    I believe the stated purpose of re-appropriating my style. Phil’s drawings illustrate the difficulty in creating work which is ‘so simple.’ It is my hope that the author is not implying that the work is so simple he could do it.

    The last paragraph, the Initial Impression, is written as part pop psychology and part advice to the artist? I have no real context for these comments. Maybe he is a teacher or mentor? Regardless, does a ‘repressed individual’ draw a piece titled, “Let’s Go Home and Screw?” That statement puts quite a bit out on the line. The idea that I am repressed, artistically speaking or otherwise, is a bit condescending.

    The ‘house painting’ line is a misquote taken out of context.

    All that said, thanks for comments. Great to get feedback. KK

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