Enter Into Joy

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Art and Scale

History is full of evidence that big might not always be beautiful, but it is BIG, and therefore usually impressive to most people. Niagara Falls attracts more people than the stream at the bottom of your garden. People go on special trips to catch a glimpse of a whale, not so for Freddie your goldfish at home. The Great Wall of China can be seen from space, while your paltry Malibu mansion cannot. To a lesser extent the same holds true for art. Art does not have to be huge to be hugely magnificent, just take a look at Michelangelo’s David. But even in art the size rule does have an effect. Examples are the Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Basilica, Picasso's Guernica. Size in art makes the art unavoidable, impossible to ignore, and forces itself upon the viewer. You can easily walk by a perfect 24 inch high 4000 year old Egyptian wooden figure in the Menil Collection, but you cannot easily do the same at some of the huge Titian paintings at the Tate in London. This ability of large artworks to make it difficult for the viewer sidestep or gloss over its existence makes size an important element in meaningful communication between the artist and the audience.
– John Katz
The Great Wall of China


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