Fan Mail: Kyle Austin Dunn

For this edition of Fan Mail, Kyle Austin Dunn of Sausalito, California has been selected from our worthy reader submissions. Two artists are featured each month—the next one could be you! If you would like to be considered, please submit your website link to with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line.

Kyle Austin Dunn, Balled Up Color and Lines, Acrylic and enamel on polystyrene and PVC, 32” x 50” x 16”, 2013.

Kyle Austin Dunn, Balled Up Color and Lines, 2013. Acrylic and enamel on polystyrene and PVC, 32 x 50 x 16 inches

Some of Kyle Austin Dunn’s artworks look sugary and delicious with factory-made colors. He rejects the colors of nature for the neon inventions of man, leaving me curious as to his relationship to the natural world. The paintings seems very California–a feeling of newness and plasticity, and the rainbowed/dayglow color palette and graphic quality is reminiscent of commercial culture, screenprinting, and street art. Dunn says he’s gotten that response before: “more specifically L.A.,” but he’s not sure why exactly. In response to his palette, he says “pure chroma is more abstract than earth tones or more subdued colors, and I’m drawn to that quality of it. It’s enigmatic in addition to being striking.”

Viewing his paintings, I assume the natural world must be uninteresting to him, but he replies, “It may be surprising to hear that the outdoors are my favorite place to be…perhaps it is that I try to avoid reproducing nature in any way because it is never as incredible as the real thing.” I think this is correct. His paintings are not about reproducing reality or real space.

“I think that I enjoy the landscape here as much as anything. Having grown up in a such a flat place, it’s inspiring to be on cliffs that overlook the Pacific, or nearby mountains that offer a view extending hundreds of miles into the distance. The landscape and weather in California change so drastically from place to place, prompting a lot of outdoor exploration for me personally. I’m always itching to see what’s around the corner of a hiking trail or down some unmarked dirt road. …where I live (which is the East Bay right now), there seem to be so many younger artists like myself, which definitely creates a sense of belonging and purpose.”

Kyle Austin Dunn, A Line and Its Body, Acrylic on canvas, 55" x 40", 2012.

Kyle Austin Dunn, A Line and Its Body, 2012. Acrylic on canvas, 55 x 40 inches

Often pairing bright colors with neutrals, his expansive gray spaces feel like being next to the hull of a huge ship or concrete wall. A Line and Its Body is large and precise but feels very tender and humanized. Its bizarre forms remind me of playing a computer game with its simplified shapes, smooth edges and applied surface design.

His twisted pieces of metal remind me of Rauschenberg’s metal sculptures though the materials are new rather than found/recycled. His oversized paperclip reminds me of Oldenburg. He cites influences such as John Chamberlain, known for his crushed car sculptures. Dunn says Fred Sandback is a favorite; the influence of his minimal linear sculpture is clear.

Dunn playfully explores geometric and formal/spacial concerns, sometimes pulled together in disparate and awkward compositions. His paintings are completely imagined, fantastical, and explore formal concepts by way of geometric forms, many of which look unreal. His sculpture brings reality to the kinds of the spaces that he paints. Four Spaces is very much about space, but also has a sense of humor.

Kyle Austin Dunn, Four Spaces, Acrylic on canvas, 88" x 76", 2012.

Kyle Austin Dunn, Four Spaces, 2012. Acrylic on canvas, 88 x 76 inches

The sculpture and paintings allow for two approaches to similar content. Dunn says “the sculpture and the painting feel very much the same thing to me. Things three dimensional are usually painted, and occupy space in ways that often mirror how forms do in two dimensions.” Looking at Studs, Dunn challenges the environment that the art inhabits.

Kyle Austin Dunn, Studs, Acrylic on wood and floor, 48" x 68" x 96", 2012.

Kyle Austin Dunn, Studs, 2012. Acrylic on wood and floor, 48 x 68 x 96 inches

Dunn makes art from his studio as a graduate fellow at the Headlands, north of San Francisco. He shares a home with his wife and friends in Berkeley and makes his living building custom furniture for clients around the Bay Area. He relishes in “the unique opportunity to travel between the bustling hyperactivity of San Francisco and soberingly calm environment of the Marin Headlands on a daily basis.” He recently completed his MFA at UC Davis.