Helm: Joe Yorty


Crackle Paint Technique

Artist: Joe Yorty

In an age that is obsessed with the new, Joe Yorty's work reifies the potential of the old and the abandoned. Employing the accumulation of "stuff" as a means to create a space for conversation pieces and personal projections, his work interrogates the language of the domestic, converting the supposedly valueless into ambiguous hybrid structures.

For his solo show in the HELM series, entitled Crackle Paint Technique, Yorty has created a multi-media installation which reinvigorates the discarded. The results betray a fascination with both the selective, personal act of collecting and the decorative impulse of interior design. 

Often originating with excursions to swap meets and thrift stores, Yorty engages in a process of accretion through an array of found objects and altered readymades (à la Duchamp) which he reconfigures, adds opulent yet quotidian surfaces to, and combines with newly made objects. 

The resulting accumulations present the viewer with a continually shifting visual experience in which the pieces are employed to resemble and suggest associations as divergent as a topographical landscape or minimalist sculpture.

The common denominator of this surprisingly fluid cacophony of objects is that everything is accessible and cheap. Each piece wavers tenuously between crudely assembled craft project and sophisticated, sleek art object. Yet, the mesmerizing surfaces that camouflage and give these old objects new life are simply masks for a history lying beneath – what we glimpse through the cracks. This juxtaposition of high art and base materiality raises questions relating to the assignment of value and the desire to hold on to the past or the decision to throw it away.  

Yorty’s work ventriloquizes the eccentricities of the collector, assigning value to objects thorough his meticulous subjective selection. These displayed ruins beget a nostalgia of imagined histories – a homemade shelf which could have proudly displayed soccer trophies; a lamp constructed in the image of the utopic geodesic dome (the structure that was going to save the world) which probably lit a dining room table where dinners were served and homework was finished. 

Even the paint which he uses is sourced from the "oops" paint selection at Home Depot – returned mixtures, perhaps the result of a change of heart about their suitability for a specific domestic project. Yorty plucks objects from relative obscurity and recontextualizes them, offering the potential for reincarnation with a mythic role in an imprecise history.