The viewer’s initial impression of Amy Yao’s “Bay of Smokes,” primarily installed in Various Small Fires’s sun-drenched main gallery (carpeted in a cream hue for the occasion), was one of blinding white light. This was not to last. Once one’s eyes adjusted, one noticed ready-made and crafted objects of various hues, each vaguely befouled or compromised, positioned on the tufted carpet and installed on the gallery walls. Brightly colored plastic flowers, crammed into a drywall recess, were trapped behind Plexiglas; a vacuum fixture encrusted with resin and activated charcoal (the sort used in both holistic and Western medicine to absorb toxins and slow the effects of poison) was mounted to the wall; umber, peach-tone, and black-streaked cast-polyurethane brains and femurs were strewn across the gallery floor. The room’s most prominent feature, which immediately invited closer
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