Small is big at Gallery Joe


A close focus on what’s small and unassuming, livable and lovable is alive and well at Gallery Joe, in an exhibit, 50 very small drawings, which reopens tonight.

Hilary Brace, Untitled (#14-03), 2003,  light scratching on frame, Charcoal on mylar, 4.25 x 4.75 inches
Hilary Brace, Untitled (#14-03), 2003, Charcoal on mylar, 4.25 x 4.75 inches

The exhibit of works by 32 artists is in the gallery’s very small vault space, and If you didn’t make an appointment to see the exhibit over the summer, the great news is you will be able to see it during the gallery’s regular hours until Sept. 19. It’s worth getting there.

The modest scale of the works is a relief from the domineering, macho works that have been required painting to show seriousness since Lichtenstein and Rosenquist and WWII. I’m a lot happier with the invitation to look closely, nose to nose, entering the image’s space rather than having the image enter my space.

The works in the exhibit run from hyper-representational to austere minimalist.

Two tiny charcoal drawings by Hillary Brace deliver the sublime in 4 inch squares. The drawings are reminders that small can be big and big can be small. Rob Matthews’ self-portraits in boxers, bottle in hand, remind me of Toulouse Lautrec’s sometimes dejected drinkers in the middle of cafes. Matthews ramps up the self-mockery and the lonelines, removing drinking from a public space to the penumbral isolation of a bare room. ┬áThe smallness and narrowness of these images communicates being caught in a bottle.

Mia Rosenthal, Frosted Cheerios, 2009, Ink on mylar, 5 x5 inches
Mia Rosenthal, Frosted Cheerios, 2009, Ink on mylar, 5 x5 inches

Mary Judge’s 3 x 2 1/2 inch canvases of powdered pigment pounced through stencils make great sense to me at that size. The small variations in the background benefit from the compression. If I were shopping, I’d have bought all four as a group! And Mia Rosenthal’s drawing of Cheerios in an irregular grid, while arguably not much different from Scottish artist David Galletly’s Cocoa Pops or his Weetabix (he showed at the late lamented Amble Gallery and Books) drawings, have an entirely different tone–cheerful and charming rather than obsessive, trapped, angry and sad. Rosenthal’s Cheerios are irregular, individual, and cell-like, bumping against each other with camaraderie. It’s Cheerios as people.

Samantha Simpson, Justification, 2009, Ink on paper, 4 x 4 inches
Samantha Simpson, Justification, 2009, Ink on paper, 4 x 4 inches

The proximity of Gil Kerlin’s incomprehensible (to me) scratchy, struggling Chinese writing crammed on a 3 x 3 inch paper, near Jacob el Hanani’s elegant micrographic signatures (4 x 6 inches), not so far from Samantha Simpson’s narrative word drawings with their old-fashioned lettering and contemporary anxiety are a great mini-disquisition on words as material objects.

There’s lots more in this show to like, including Sabine Friesicke’s pocket–art #1 and #2 (yes, we all need to carry around bits of art in our pocket) and Laurie Reid’s material blob in gorgeous colors, glued off-center to a piece of paper.

This is a very good show, including work from Kate Moran, Alexander Gorlizki as well as a lineup of many of the gallery’s regular exhibitors.


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