Dalton Gallery Director Lisa Alembik and her fellow jurors, Rachael Baldanza and Richard Gess, have managed quite a feat in their “All Small Redux” exhibition currently on view at the Dalton Gallery at Agnes Scott College. The parameters for the show include a dimension no larger than 6 inches and length no longer than 60 seconds. Each artist in the show uniquely tackled this task, creating works that celebrate the intimacy of size and address subjects which push the boundaries of the dimensions.
One of the first pieces presented in the show is Karen Hennessee’s Small type, 1. The piece celebrates the theme of the show perfectly, requiring a miniature magnifying glass to view the text printed on a 3.5 x 4-inch square of paper. The whisper of a note conveys the quietness and intimacy of inner thought.
Tom Zarilli’s pieces are too much fun. Designing for the armchair traveler, he glues postcard images and maps to the lens of various pairs of spectacles. These pieces are certainly timely ones for a general public without the money for travel. We are reduced to the images we see on the Travel Channel, the Internet, and magazines. Zarilli’s pieces remind us that in many ways that is what traveling is—experiencing things as we are told to and expect to.
Michael Reedy’s figure drawings worked around what I expected to be the challenge of this show. It seems that when confronted with size limitations, the artists might construct pieces that were more sketches and models for larger projects. Reedy’s Polaroid-sized drawings are fully realized portraits. Like many other works in this show, these succeed because of the context of the exhibition.
E. Sherman Hayman’s miniature coffins are some of the more playful pieces in the exhibition. Each is designed as a shrine to famous artists whose works have influenced Hayman, including Lichtenstein, Whistler, and Le Corbusier. The coffins are elaborately and distinctively decorated to display symbolic and literal references to their intended figures. Chanel’s casket appears to wear a pink suit in her classic design with a pair of gold scissors made into a necklace that is draped across her chest. Every detail of these pieces is magnificently crafted, which removes certain levels of kitsch that threaten to take over mixed media works of this nature.
Joan Tysinger’s Curb to Curb, a chapter from the larger video essay Wheelchair Diaries, succeeds in large part because of the limitation of length. The 60 second clip documenting the complications of Joan’s daily life allows the simple act of crossing the street to become a seemingly impossible trial. Because the viewer is aware of the time limit that Tysinger has to complete this task in the video, we become aware that her life is one slowed down by the detours she encounters everyday.
Cosmo Whyte’s images depict funeral scenes rendered to various degrees, some fully complete while others remain only vague outlines. Whyte’s intention to make the viewer aware of their role as both a voyeur and participant in these rituals is extremely successful because of his execution. The size of these pieces also furthers the concept because of the similarity in scale to family photographs. Specific elements of the funeral are recognizable, but the more private aspect of the figures’ identity and location remain unknown.
Jeff Brown’s watercolors of dental x-rays are one series in the exhibit whose size is unaltered by the guidelines but that would have risked being lost in a show with larger works. The small paintings are absolutely lovely in the delicacy with which they are executed and, because of this, they remove the sterility of the x-ray they represent. Much like Whyte’s work, there is a play between universally understood imagery and that which is hidden from the viewer. As opposed to Whyte’s work, it seems here that the artist—the speaker—wants to communicate with the viewer about their identity. The x-ray provides a full narrative of a person’s life in so many ways because it is such an all-telling account of their history.
Nell Ruby’s pieces are certainly some of the most endearing in the show. Her small boxes house fully decorated rooms that each hold televisions. The rooms are mounted to a window in the gallery that looks out to the street. The televisions within each room can be watched, and the programming consists of whatever is happening on the street. The forced intimacy of this box, and the fact that the viewer is required to completely enter the fictional rooms, seems to be a hyperbole of how we examine others’ spaces.
Sarah Steinwachs’ paper cut-out landscapes read more like a fabric than a piece of paper. The works are truly incredible to see because of the absolute meticulousness required to execute them. These are works that champion their smallness and play it to their advantage for a wow factor more than most others in the show. The grid pattern resembles an urban landscape, an organically created organism, and computer pixelation, simultaneously allowing the pieces to take on the perfection of organic patterns and the flaws of man-made order.