The Tension in Liat Yossifor’s Paintings

Liat Yossifor, “Three Women” (2020), oil on linen, 81 x 78 inches (All images courtesy the artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York, NY)

My interest in the paintings of Liat Yossifor is multifold, stemming in part from the way she collapses alla prima painting and figure-ground relationships into something unique. By doing so, she has opened up a distinct space for herself within a domain many thought was no longer possible to work in: drawing in paint on canvas.  

In her work, Yossifor rejects the formal claim that drawing in paint (as in Willem de Kooning) evolved into the non-expressionistic use of paint-as-paint (Jackson Pollock). Rather than embracing this view of materiality, she seems to be interested in the connotative possibilities of paint’s materiality when it is explored through alla prima painting and a rethinking of the figure-ground relationship. Her works suggest figural abstractions in which no figure is visible, a preoccupation that was apparent in her early “Portraits” (2005), for which she first gained attention after receiving her MFA from the University of California, Irvine, in 2002. 

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