From Miniature Bunkbeds to 3-D Printed Spores, Postmasters Showcases Small Art
It can often seem that “bigger is better” is an axiom of the art world. Warehouse-sized galleries, built to exhibit massive paintings and monumental sculptures, are becoming the norm, while museums mount sprawling installations to fill newly constructed wings. Postmasters Gallery’s current group show, cleverly titled “this one is smaller than this one.,” might be seen as a protest against this obsession with all things large-scale.
Curated by Paulina Bębecka, the show’s focus is sculpture, with a selection of objects by well-known artists arranged playfully on a large, white table. As all of the works on view are under two-feet tall, the exhibition has more in common with anthropological displays than with traditional contemporary art exhibitions. Situated close to the gallery’s entrance, John Byam’s collection of rockets, walkie talkies, and other technological artifacts are all crudely carved from wood. Arranged atop a reflective surface, they look like the findings of an archaeological dig. Echoing this reference to the museological is Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw’s In the Future the Past Will Be Different. (Part 2) (2016), a small diorama of bunkbeds and Nike sneakers. The piece reads like a humorous critique of branding and identity, until one consults the press release and discovers that it’s actually a (quite morose) recreation of the crime scene of the “Heaven’s Gate” suicide cult.
A certain playfulness imbues many of the works on view. Narcisisster presents a group of plush, sculptural hands complete with flamboyantly lacquered acrylic nails. In the back, hidden behind a miniature Lawrence Weiner text piece, sits a group of ceramic portraits of homeless individuals by artist C.J. Chueca. Creating faces from unexpected collections of objects like notepads and telephones, these works create an empathetic picture of a population too often ignored. (Accordingly, a portion of the profits made from these works will go to the organization Coalition For The Homeless).
One of the exhibition’s most compelling elements is a group of works that disturbingly blur the natural with the artificial. Andrew Thomas Huang’s “animated digital sculpture” Hyperskins (2015) is an unsettling video of two 3-D-rendered creatures that seem at once high-tech and prehistoric. Twitching entrancingly, they could be gurgling organisms emerging from primordial ooze or futuristic robots sent from the depths of space. Alongside the video are Pussykrew’s “spores,” inch-sized 3-D-prints that are so complexly detailed they look like they contain universes. And Monica Cook’s Cobra (2015) turns a nasal aspirator and stockings into a flesh-colored, somewhat phallic snake. All three works look towards a future where the world’s organic beings are produced in a laboratory.
Though the sculptures on view are eclectic, “this one is smaller than this one.” makes a persuasive argument for the overlooked complexities of minuscule art. Too often, an artist’s smaller works are only displayed as complements to their larger counterparts. By giving center stage to these smaller-scale objects, Postmasters suggests that the choice to work small can open up a world of possibilities.
“this one is smaller than this one.” is on view at Postmasters Gallery, New York, Jan. 30–Mar. 12, 2016.