Matt Hoyt works with subtle distinctions of color and shape that float just at the threshold of perception. Each of the eight untitled pieces in his new show was a painstakingly harmonious grouping of between two and six tiny elements resting on a low shelf. Conceived and produced separately between 2006 and 2011, these components are made of clay, putty, aqua resin, plaster, metal and/or electrical tape, and painted with oil, acrylic, tempera and/or pastel in the muted palette of a rock collection. Many of them are sections of circles or spheres, and the arrangements gently recall groups of seashells, pottery shards or chocolate truffles. One object resembles a child’s top with two handles and no point, another an igloo, another a petrified thumb joint, a prosthetic nose or a cigarette butt. Because of the height of the shelves, the viewer was somewhere in between looking at and ooking down into these objects: They’re just present enough to hold the atten- tion, but the rest is up to you.
Untitled (Group 67) consists of a white hemisphere (the igloo); a smaller, cylindrical, ribbed black object (the petrified thumb joint); and a delicate black hoop that looks as if it were made from wire wrapped in tiny chains. The simplicity of this grouping (three objects, either black or white, placed in a straight line) highlights the compositional method at play in all the work. The number, the colors and the shapes (an unfolding of a sphere in three variations) can be taken in at a glance. The separate sensory impressions are so polished and restrained that, just by sitting side by side, the three elements almost weave together into a single object, itself as quiet and self-effacing as its parts.
The dynamism here is in that almost. The strong initial impression of polished smoothness slowly gives way to a series of subtle distinctions—the thumb joint is a deeper black than the hoop, there are minuscule bits of gray peeking through the igloo’s white paint, all the circles are more or less irregular—that make the process of looking into a pedagogy. It’s not about seeing but about learning to see, and the viewer is like a baby, trying for the first time to divide the world into separate pieces.
Photo: Matt Hoyt: Untitled (Group 67), 2009-11, 11/2 by 15 1/2 by 4 inches, and Untitled (Group 28), 2006-11, 4 1/2 by 18 by 5 inches, wooden shelves with mixed mediums; at Bureau.