Critics’ Picks

Soundtrack for Wits and Rakes, 2004.

New York

Amy Yoes

Michael Steinberg Fine Art
526 West 26th Street, Suite 215
January 7–February 12

Bellflowers and barley twists, fruiting finials and dogs-of-Fo handles: The vocabulary of ornament is as recondite, in its way, as that of particle physics—though much more flamboyant. And just as most of us don’t know the terms, we don’t really see the forms they describe, though they surround us—on building façades, picture frames, wallpaper, furniture. Amy Yoes, on the other hand, has built a practice around her scrutiny of the motifs of various decorative traditions, which she tweaks and transforms (with digital help) and uses as the basis of sculptures, drawings, and paintings. At Michael Steinberg, a series of small sepia-ink-on-paper drawings articulates a lexicon of intricate curvilinear shapes, which are echoed on a larger scale in a giant drawing that unfurls across two walls. Similar forms crop up in five new oil paintings, where they’re crisply rendered in inspiredly off-kilter color and put in play across impossible pictorial spaces with multiple vanishing points. More of Yoes’s paintings are on view, albeit as tiny maquettes, in Beehive, 2003, a “retrospective” installed in a modernist dollhouse-museum. If the limits of one’s language form the limits of one’s world, Yoes—by activating a dormant visual language that permeates the everyday—pushes the boundaries back a little bit further.