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Musings on the Perfect Size

September 9, 2010

We’ve just added 5 photos by Bruce Panock from his Movement series. We always ask artists to send their images to us in very large format so that we can best manage image quality on the thumbnails and popup windows. Too small and the popup image looks awful. Too large and, well, there’s no such thing.

But the point is that I first saw Bruce’s latest photos in very large format and fell in love with their abstract quality. While the photos are actually images of people in motion, they are also excellent abstract photos. What was curious to me when I made the thumbnails which are 175 pixels in height or width (depending upon their horizontal/vertical orientation), was how the abstract quality was lost. In thumbnail, they appear to be out-of-focus photos, not what they are at all.

This started me thinking about how an artist chooses the perfect size for a particular work.

Bruce’s Movement series photos must be large to convey his concept. He is printing this series at 13”x19”. In my opinion, this is the smallest size allowable which supports his idea. I suspect these could be much larger, which would increase their abstract quality.

Pascal Cornier’s abstract photos of color on water are exceptionally successful because he has focused on both color and size. If you examine his photos in detail, you’ll realize that he is using a very small section of his total shot, possibly as small as 3”x4”. But, because he blows them up to a size that’s roughly 32”x40”, all you see is color and texture, precisely what he is trying to achieve. Would you even know it’s reflections on water if Pascal hadn’t told you so?

Curiously, in Pascal’s case and because the quality of the color is his goal, it almost doesn’t matter what size the image is, because he has so successfully cropped his photos to focus on the color mix. In a strange sort of way, Pascal’s work is infinitely scalable.

You’ll see what I mean in the next few days as Pascal’s photos go live on The Second Hanging. Pascal is interesting because he’s the opposite of Bruce: Pascal’s photos can be any size whereas Bruce’s Movement images must be large.

Some of you, I hope, were lucky enough to see Dorothy Culpepper’s recent show at Montserrat Gallery. This was her first show of exclusively small format paintings. Over roughly the past 5 years and with the exception of this year’s show, Dorothy’s paintings have been getting larger and larger, culminating in paintings of roughly 48” by 60”.

This year, the majority of her work was 12”x12”, the larger one were 12”x15”. She had to be concise and effective in her ideas, and her execution of the idea for each painting. When I think of each of these small paintings as large ones, the one thing I’m certain of is that they wouldn’t have worked as elegantly. They might have been good paintings, but they would not have been as exciting. Conversely, I cannot imagine the large paintings in smaller format, portions of them perhaps, but not the entire paintings.
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No answers here. Just musings on an artist’s decision on what is right for each work.

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