San Francisco

Keith Boyle

A single painting by Boyle is bound to be noticed even in a large group show, because the vibrant and fluorescent color combinations are constantly twitching and winking, and expressing the painting’s image like an insistent commercial sign. The image is likely to be a gauge or meter (simple in its original form, but further simplified). A whole room of these devices, such as the de Young exhibition, subjects the eye to a very energetic exercise. “The color must work!” seems to be as axiomatic with painters of Mr. Boyle’s persuasion, as the constant reiteration during the early “Muck” phase of expressionism, of such remarks as, “Color is just an illusion.” Coming to grips with the potential of color mechanics is a field that artists have left largely to the physicists, and painting has suffered from this neglect. But the physicists were seldom more than incidentally interested, so color has been left to the birds and bees who knew exactly what it was all about. But now the few painters who continually preoccupied themselves with color, but were recognized only as a sort of shadow cabinet representing a party out of power, have come into their own, and a host of unaffiliated painters have decided to join them.

One might wish that Mr. Boyle would lift his eye from the dial, which is more usefully activated by spring or electric impulse than by color mechanics, and probably renders its most accurate reading in black and white. In fact color mechanics is one of the most simple and rewarding tools at the artist’s disposal for expressing the dynamics and harmonics of the modern world, while dials only reduce them to truisms for purposes of control. Color used thus would be purposeful, to emphasize a command. Can that be Boyle’s object? Perhaps he is just observing the plethora of commands in modern life—commands to buy, to stop, to go. Some artists are doing that. No, he is fascinated by his marvelous instrument, but is too enthusiastic to notice that he is still playing the scales.

––Knute Stiles