Size Matters presents fifteen contemporary large-scale paintings by twelve artists from diverse genres. The title is a double entendre that suggests two meanings: the significance of size and the problems associated with it.
In the visual arts, size is concerned with scale and proportion. On one hand, scale refers to the size of a whole object in relationship to another whole object. In experiencing the scale of an artwork, we tend to compare its size to that of our bodies. In this exhibition, “The Agony of Christ,” by Jerome Wright, is 65” x 48.” One need only glance at the work to gain a sense of its stature and imposing presence.
On the other hand, proportion refers to the relative size of the parts of a whole object. In the portrait of the classical composer Ulysses S. Kay, by Carl Owens, the head and shoulders of the subject are much larger than that of most humans. As the viewer, we immediately understand the significance of this person who has been painted in such a grand style.
The concern associated with large-scale works of art is also two-fold. The artists that create them have to manage the scale and proportion of the details in their work, but just as importantly, they have to determine where they will store and possibly transport them. Museums have similar concerns about such works’ safe transport, storage, and exhibition.
As you view the paintings, note that “Woman Reading a Bible” by Jerome Wright, at 45” x 35.5” is the smallest work, and that “The Door of No Return” by Saffell Gardner, at 8’ x 4’ is the largest. If in this expansive space, the featured paintings were a standard 20” x 24”, they would appear less impressive regardless of the quality of the artists’ execution. Therefore, in this case, size really does matter.
Size Matters: Large-Scale Paintings from the Collections of the Charles H. Wright Museum is free with Museum admission.