For curator Phong Bui, size matters. In Intimacy in Discourse: Reasonable and Unreasonable Sized Paintings, Bui juxtaposes smaller paintings (from roughly 16 x 20 to 22 x 28) with larger scale pieces. Through this simple premise, the exhibit aims to explore the often-paradoxical relationship between scale and intimacy. The show serves as proof that small paintings can appear vast and sweeping, while large paintings call feel intimate.
This renowned curator and artist was primarily inspired by Jackson Pollock’s admiration of artist Albert Pinkham Ryder, and their opposing techniques. Pollock is known for his large-scale paintings, while Ryder chooses modest sized canvases. In “Moonlight Marine,” for example, Ryder captures a sprawling ocean and boundless sky in a comparatively minuscule frame of 11 ½ x 12 inch frame. Pollock’s iconic “Autumn Rhythm” (Number 30), which measures approximately 90 x 58 inches, zooms in on almost cellular minutia.
By placing works of different scale side by side, Intimacy in Discourse poses the question: why do artists feel compelled to create in either scale? It also starkly contrasts how disparately artists translate our singular reality depending on their vision and perspective.
Bui chose to divide the show into two parts at two separate venues; Part I: Reasonable Sized Paintings at Mana Contemporary which opened in late October, and Part II: Unreasonable Sized Paintings opening at SVA Chelsea Gallery in late November. He explains,
“For Part I: Reasonable Sized Paintings, we focused on a selection of painters that have consistently worked within approximately modest sizes—making paintings that could be tucked under one’s arm and carried—for most of their careers.
“In Part II: Unreasonable Sized Paintings, which does not here refer to unorthodox explorations in canvas size or shape, includes works by artists who only occasionally make works of a modest scale. Works in the show are neither studies for bigger works nor parts of series. Each is an autonomous work.”
“…The show is a quiet celebration of painting culture, which brings a community of painters together—older and younger painters, known, unknown, overlooked, and emerging painters—under these two simultaneous themes. “
This free of charge exhibit is currently on view at Mana Contemporary, and will be on view at the School of Visual Arts Chelsea Gallery from November 21st through December 22nd. The exhibitions will also feature poetry readings, dance performances, and panel discussions.