“Other Sides & Other Sizes” Exhibition

M. David & Co

poster for “Other Sides & Other Sizes” Exhibition
[Image: Ben Pritchard "Presence" (2019) Oil on panels, 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.]

This event has ended.

A novel needn’t be a grand tome to tell a vast, sweeping tale. A short story needn’t reach novella length to recount a rich narrative within its relative brevity. A poem needn’t be written in an epic number of verses to be exemplary of epic poetry.

And as most viewers, makers, exhibitors and lovers of art in general would likely agree, an artwork of one sort or another needn’t be particularly large to be a masterpiece.

Nevertheless, artists, curators, critics, collectors, and somewhat less subjective viewers alike display a general tendency to make quite a big deal out of artworks that are big. That big deal made about such works tends to mean granting them some sort of greater estimation over artworks that are small. That greater estimation can sometimes mean that smaller artworks, especially if made by the same artist, are held in less esteem.

And all of that, as anyone who knows a thing or two about the art market knows, tends to mean that the larger artworks made by contemporary artists are marked with higher price points, and that the smaller ones are marked with lower ones, as if there’s some sort of fundamental rationality to such valuation, some kind of logical ratio of pecuniary value to square inch.

One could quite obviously make a rather big deal about this and many other foibles of the contemporary art market, but let’s follow the wording of an apt contemporary proverb and opt not to go there.

Instead, let’s go to the other sides of this discussion of variably scaled artworks: to the other sides, that is, of other sizes, as there are so many far more interesting ones to consider that are really, unlike pricing, about the work, or in the work, or part of how the work works, or related to how or why it was made or imagined, or indicative of what it might mean or imply — or of course, relevant to what it looks like, in fact, and to how viewers view it.

These are just some of the scale-related considerations that furnish the context of “Other Sides & Other Sizes,” an exhibit featuring a range of differently sized paintings by Barbara Laube, Ben Pritchard and Peter Bonner.

Going up and down, back and forth, and toward some middle range in terms of scale isn’t the only matter of painterly practice shared by these artists. They are all also very interested in rich textures and materiality, and in the kinds of forms that might result from a sincerely considered, extensively procedural merging of notion, vision and emotion with the act, itself, of painting — and with the sense of time that then, as a result, dwells on and in the painted surface. Of course, a viewer of a painting is essentially always viewing the result of a painter’s act of making it. But not all painters place the same level of importance on the process of making the painting remaining also visually palpable. For all three of these artists, it is also this side of their variably sized works that relates in fundamental ways to the content or subjects they uncover therein, discoveries to leave revealed for others.

What Laube seeks to discover and display in her mixed-media works is a sense of spiritual wonder, transcendence, and non-objective, in a way non-subjective metamorphosis. She often works in relatively limited palettes of even just a couple colors, as if to suggest a chromatic transference from one state to another, a suggestion that she then further asserts in works that exist as diptychs. If a thin layer of scratched, scraped gold leaf beams atop a bed of bold red, it is not merely so that the former balances out the latter, but also to show what that red has become — to suggest that a chromatic state already rich in beauty has reached a yet greater state of grace. Where Laube employs a more adventurous palette, the ranging colors become scattered and diffuse throughout a textured bed, like blossoming wildflowers viewed from above. An earthly state, perhaps, rather than a divine one.

Pritchard works primarily in oils but occasionally folds other media, liquid or not, into the strata and history of the gristle and grit of his surfaces. No stranger to reworking paintings from years ago to locate something else lurking within, and no stranger either to spending months upon months building storied textures, crafting them additively, subtractively and with great contemplative toil, Pritchard seeks ultimate forms bearing the aspect or stamp of symbols, though not symbols to which one might attribute a specifically known meaning. Over great lengths of time, he mines and adds to his compositions until bold shapes and linearities, sometimes implying rudimentary modes of representation or characters from lost systems of glyphs, begin to emerge — the yields of not just a great deal of layering and reworking, but also of earnest and lengthy looking. Pritchard’s earthy palettes operate like chromatic soils for so much formal excavation.

Where Laube’s works are mystically non-objective and Pritchard’s harbor profound mysteries and symbols, Bonner’s display modes of procedural vigorousness and compositional kinesis in their scored, drippy, hewn, sliced-into textures. Neither necessarily earthy nor spare, rather occupying a well-balanced middle range of chromatic polyphony, Bonner’s palettes evince calmness and harmony, which the painter then delves into — as if in visual counterpoint — extensively and energetically, sometimes introducing acrylic, sand and other media into his variably hybridized surfaces. In terms of formal inquiry, Bonner seems here to be navigating landscapes, there to be digging for ambiguous figures, and then over there to be implying states of ecstasy and cognitive elsewheres. Bonner probes his surfaces as a probing of his creative states of mind.

Scale is not unimportant to these artists, for sure, but it doesn’t significantly change how they work their surfaces, nor the nature of their individual searches. It surely alters some sense of physicality while they work, but not of time. It might subtly alter the range of media they employ, but it doesn’t change their compositional quests.

Still, the variable scale of Laube’s, Pritchard’s and Bonner’s works in “Other Sides & Other Sizes” surely alters, on some level, how we engage with them as viewers. It alters, in some way, how we approach and explore them. How? Why?

The aim of this exhibit is not to make grand claims about the relative import of artworks at different scales. The point is to pose questions about this seemingly simple yet curiously complex matter.

On that note, a complex system might be thought of as a large gathering of smaller complexities. An apt way to refer to ‘smaller complexities’ is ‘simple matters.’

Is painting simply a matter of gathering small complexities into greater or larger ones? Might painting also, or instead, open up complexities to expose them as simple?

It’s a complicated relationship.

Look hard. Consider.

— Paul D’Agostino



from November 08, 2019 to December 08, 2019

Opening Reception on 2019-11-08 from 18:00 to 20:00

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