Small talk with Roberta Smith

In the NY Times, Roberta Smith notices that the galleries are full of small abstract painting lately.”Small may be beautiful, but where abstract painting is concerned, it is rarely fashionable. Big has held center stage at least since Jackson Pollock; the small abstractions of painters like Myron Stout, Forrest Bess and Steve Wheeler are mostly relegated to the wings, there to be considered eccentric or overly precious. Paul Klee was arguably the last genius of small abstraction to be granted full-fledged membership in the Modernist canon. But what is marginalized can also become a form of dissent, a way to counter the prevailing arguments and sidestep their pitfalls. It is hard, for example, to work small and indulge in the mind-boggling degree of spectacle that afflicts so much art today. In a time of glut and waste on every front, compression and economy have undeniable appeal. And if a great work of art is one that is essential in all its parts, that has nothing superfluous or that can be subtracted, working small may improve the odds.” What Smith doesn’t mention is that painting small scale abstraction is a completely different process and a more personal experience for the painter than working on unwieldy, made-for-museum, monumental-sized canvases. Read more about the inherent meaning embedded in scale choice in my forthcoming essay to the May issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

The artists Smith cites are Scott Olson, Tomma Abts, Katy Moran, Matt Connors, and Michaela Eichwald.

Related links:
Small work: Fab Fair four
How Thomas Nozkowski scaled back the rules and rhetoric
Matt Connors at Canada

Abts in heaven

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