Art Beyond Boundaries, a spacious storefront gallery on Main Street in Over the Rhine, features the work of regional artists with disabilities. The current show, “Greenery,” presents paintings by Caroline M. Pyle Jr. A near fatal car accident in 2006 caused Pyle to shift from a career in public health and take up painting as a means of sharing the transformative experience of her recovery. Her paintings are joyful abstracts, with amorphous shapes rendered in many extravagantly contrasting colors. Pyle is also adept at presenting a more limited color field against a textured white background, but the most impressive works in the show are the most restrained, simple geometrical abstracts with harmoniously blended colors.
Some of Pyle’s free form color paintings are aptly described by their titles. Electric shades of red, pink, blue, yellow, and green swirl through “Psychedelic,” as though they had been poured in a blender and were about to be mixed. A more limited palate of primary colors, offset by white, gives “Captivated by Color” an organic appearance, further enhanced by the thick application of paint and the dots of color that dance through the painting. “Cornucopia of Color” is one of Pyle’s best color studies. A bouquet of colors, green, orange, purple and deep red, starts in the lower right of the painting and bursts into full bloom in the upper left. This “bouquet” is framed by a brilliant yellow border that pushes the central image forward. This composition forces the viewer’s eye to move through the painting and experience a remarkable blooming of colors. This is one of Pyle’s most accomplished paintings.
Pyle adds texture to some of her free form color paintings by applying pieces of colored glass that form small circular mosaics within the composition. Some of the larger massings of glass act as mirrors that reflect the face of the viewer peering into the painting. The flecks of glass also pick up the intense pigments of these paintings. In “Life’s a Beach,” an abstract seascape in blues, aqua, and white, the small glass shapes suggest sparkling objects washed up by ocean waves. The glass applications in “Amoeba Dance,” part of the biomorphic composition of the painting, resemble the nucleus in the center of a cell. These heavily textured paintings are dramatic, partly a result of the intensity of the color, partly due to the glittering applications, but they run the risk of adding too much sparkle to the canvases, a bit of gilding the lily.
“Black Eyed Susan” is a painting in which Caroline Pyle draws closest to her African American heritage as an artist. This painting contains bits of translucent glass, but they work perfectly with its subject, an abstract rendering of a flower Pyle must have known growing up in Rhode Island. With its vibrant and thickly painted blues, greens, yellows, and purples, the work almost jumps off the gallery wall. The colors are pushed further by the black dots at the center of each flower. Viewing this flower cascading down the vertical canvas, gives the impression of being in a garden grown wild with blooms. The painting conveys a feeling of joy, a celebration of nature and color and freedom.
Pyle’s most distinctive works in the show are five paintings in which segmented columns of color rise vertically through fields of textured white. The elemental nature of the shapes suggest finger painting, a child’s delight in spreading of color across a sheet of white paper. Strongly contrasting colors—purple, green, blue yellow, pink—are offset by the white background. “Scorched” contains fewer colors than the other paintings in this vein, and its restraint adds to its impact. Green is the dominant color. Smaller amounts of blue and purple provide a beautiful contrast to the green. Some of the blue is so dark it verges on black. Small dots of red appear in the symmetrical masses of color and there are flecks of color in the white background. The subtle blending and contrasting of colors against the white background gives the painting a sense of balance and repose.
Caroline Pyle has technical skill and originality. She is ebullient in her use of color and free flowing in her compositions. The happiness she felt in overcoming adversity is evident everywhere in her work. But, to my mind, the most beautiful paintings in this show are the most subtle. “Mélange” is a geometric abstract with swirling fragments rendered in warm earth tones. The blending of related colors is captivating. Near the center of the painting, a single slanting bar of turquoise provides just the right amount of contrast needed to focus the viewer’s attention in this energetic composition. “Lifesavers,” a highlight of the show, demonstrates the power of simplicity. This color field painting consists of vertical bands of yellow, ochre, green, mint green, and lavender that dissolve into a final band of off-white. Pyle’s subtle combining of color with absolute simplicity of form elicits a powerful aesthetic response. The painting is a near perfect instance of the surprising beauty of pure form and color.
“Greenery” ran at Art Beyond Boundaries through September 11.