Intimacy in Discourse: Unreasonable Sized Paintings
School of Visual Arts’ Chelsea Gallery and Mana Contemporary, in collaboration with the Rail Curatorial Projects, co-present a two-part exhibition, “Intimacy in Discourse: Reasonable Sized and Unreasonable Sized Paintings,” curated by Phong Bui. Both are proposed experiments to explore the conditions that lead to the production of small paintings: how paintings’ sizes are determined by different artists’ conscious or unconscious intentions, and how those sizes, in turn, affect their relation to viewers in the various spaces that the artworks quietly occupy in contemporary visual culture.
According to Bui, both curatorial ideas were inspired by Jackson Pollock’s admiration for Albert Pinkham Ryder, whose modestly sized paintings—such as “Moonlight Marine” (1870 - 90), which measures 11 ½ x 12"—evoke monumental scale and immensity of space, while Pollock’s larger canvases attain a sense of intimacy. Such a subtle perception of how scale mediates our responses to images like these subsequently prompted Thomas Nozkowski’s term “reasonable-size paintings,” which describes his two standard sizes, 16 x 20" and 22 x 28", within which he has consistently worked since the early 1970s. The following two selections of painters were assembled to expand the dialogue surrounding this topic.
“Unreasonable Sized Paintings” (a term neither limited to unorthodox variations in canvas shape nor monumentally sized paintings), showing at SVA Chelsea Gallery, refers to the work of painters who, during occasional unpremeditated episodes, feel compelled to make paintings that are neither specific studies of larger or smaller paintings nor parts of particular ongoing series, but rather the byproduct of pure pleasure or the release of spontaneous thoughts that need to be concretized without limitations. This category is the most commonly practiced among painters. Participating artists include Michael Berryhill, Sebastian Black, Katherine Bradford, Lois Dodd, Louise Fishman, Ron Gorchov, Joanne Greenbaum, Nora Griffin, EJ Hauser, Sanya Kantarovsky, Alex Katz, James English Leary, Matvey Levenstein, Dean Levin, Margrit Lewczuk, Chris Martin (BFA 1992 Fine Arts), Loren Munk, Catherine Murphy, Aliza Nisenbaum, Ellen Phelan, Joanna Pousette-Dart, Tal R, Neo Rauch, Julia Rommel, Cordy Ryman (BFA 1997 Fine Arts), Julia Schmidt, Juan Uslé, Don Voisine, Merrill Wagner, Roger White, Terry Winters and Lisa Yuskavage.
“Reasonable Sized Paintings,” showing at Mana Contemporary, is focused solely on works by artists who have been consistently making paintings approximately within Nozkowski’s proposed, modest scale. This half of the exhibition features works from Joshua Abelow, Peter Acheson, Etel Adnan, Ellen Altfest, Tom Burckhardt, Rackstraw Downes, Helmut Federle, Robert Feintuch, Mark Greenwold, Josephine Halvorson, Merlin James, Bill Jensen, Katy Moran, Thomas Nozkowski, Ann Pibal, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, James Siena and Robert Storr.
In conjunction with the exhibition, poetry reading, dance performances and panel discussions will be organized at both venues (TBA). Admission to all events is free to the public. A free color catalogue of the exhibition will also be available.
Phong Bui is an artist and the co-founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Brooklyn Rail and Rail Editions, as well as the host/producer of Off the Rail on Art International Radio. From 2007 – 2009 he was a curatorial advisor at MoMA PS1, and he is currently a board member of the Artists Advisory Committee of the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program, AICA (the International Association of Art Critics, United States Section), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, The Miami Rail and The Third Rail. As a visual artist, his numerous installations have won the Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Eric Isenburger Annual Prize for Installation from the National Academy Museum (2003).
SVA Chelsea Gallery is located at 601 West 26th Street, 15th floor. It is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Admission is free. The gallery is accessible by wheelchair. For more information, call 212.592.2145.
Mana Contemporary is located at 888 Newark Avenue in Jersey City, NJ. Gallery hours are 9:00 am – 6:00 pm Monday through Friday. For more information, visit manacontemporary.com.