A Miniature View of Modernism’s Masters

PASADENA, Calif. — A lot of contemporary artwork, like fashionable cinema, fashionable structure, and fashionable warfare, performs out in giant scale, taking on literal house in an effort to shift the dialog towards the modernist notion of progress and its celebration of human achievement. However at the moment, in no matter period of aesthetics we’ll ultimately decide on calling this era, among the most globally impactful media play out in miniature, on tiny screens that we supply with us and eat on the practice, bathroom, or couches in entrance of televisions.

Modernism in Miniature, on the Norton Simon Museum, explores fashionable artwork by way of the lens of the tiny. On the entrance is Marcel Duchamp’s “Boîte-en-valise” (Field in a Suitcase, 1935–41), whereby 68 of his works are shrunk down into what he known as a “moveable museum.” Produced in a sequence of 24 editions, “Boîte-en-valise” turned a retrospective of types, capturing the artist’s works whereas concurrently functioning as one thing of a readymade of its personal, with its resemblance to a touring salesperson’s suitcase.

Marcel Duchamp, “Boîte-en-valise” (1935-41), cardboard field containing 68 miniature replicas and reproductions, Sequence D of 1961, Version of 30, 16 x 14 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches 

Different tiny museums within the present embody Joseph Cornell’s “Hôtel du Nord (Little Dürer)” (c. 1950), which comprises reproductions of the works of German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, and Kurt Schwitters’s “Lust Homicide Field No. 2” (1920-22), an ornate field crafted by Albert Schulze (an skilled on the wooden method “intarsia”) with nothing inside, serving as a commentary on the need to catalogue and possess. Cornell took to calling his mini museums musées de poches, or pocket museums, including a layer of caprice to the mission.

Within the 1970 silkscreen “Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Picasso’s Girl with Flowered Hat,’ 1963,” Los Angeles artist Richard Pettibone created a miniature of a Lichtenstein print that was itself a re-creation of a Picasso from 1941. That many miniatures are themselves works about artworks appears a sort of commentary on collectibility — specifically, who has entry to artwork — alongside the chance that miniaturization affords in enhancing the power to personal, transport, and show artwork for a broader vary of viewers. These works are the artwork world’s model of a dollhouse, in so some ways.

Lyonel Feininger, (prime left) “Church with Six Stars” (1928), watercolor on woodcut on wove paper; (backside left) “Church with Tall Tower” (1920), watercolor on woodcut on wove paper; (proper) “Carnival” (1920), woodcut on Japanese laid paper

The present options miniatures from Picasso himself: 5 bronze sculptures of girls (all merely titled “Girl” and numbered) are lined up and set towards a lithograph titled “Assortment of Small Footage.” Each the print and the sculptures learn as sketches moderately than ultimate items. They seem in visible dialogue towards tiny heads by Expressionist Lyonel Feininger and his son, T. Lux Feininger. Feininger the elder, an energetic member of the Bauhaus motion, additionally took to creating toys, and the heads seem like toy variations of totemic sculptures.

As we speak, after all, we’re accustomed to buying the very giant within the type of the very small. Most main works, together with many sculptures and architectural buildings, now have miniature reproductions accessible in museum reward outlets and Etsy shops, and artists repeatedly make smaller prints of their bigger items. A part of the present’s worth is seeing that among the canonical artists of modernism made small works too, without delay presaging and collaborating in smallness as each a type of and commentary on accessibility. 

All that mentioned, the pocket museums on show wouldn’t truly match inside a traditional pocket and even a big purse. That is, maybe, a part of the joke: these works aren’t any extra accessible than their bigger cousins. Although smaller in measurement than the artists’ common works, they achieve their heft from their creators — artists with huge names and massive works on the market which have had a big effect. Bodily measurement is one factor, however outsize title recognition trumps all.

Left to proper: Lyonel Feininger, “Head” (c. 1920), “Head” (1920), each oil paint on wooden with metallic ring; T. Lux Feininger, “Head” (1923), gouache and pencil on wooden
Joseph Cornell, “Hôtel du Nord (Little Dürer)” (c. 1950), assemblage: painted field, metallic ring and chain, wooden blocks, printed paper, reproductions of Durer’s “Self-portrait at age 13,” Durer’s drawing of a rabbit, and a copy of an nameless fifteenth century portrait of a kid with clasped fingers, 17 7/8 x 12 x 3 13/16 inches
Lee Miller, “Joseph Cornell with One in every of His Objects” (133), gelatin silver print
Claes Oldenburg, “Fireplug Memento, Chicago” (August 1968), hydrocal plaster, painted crimson, Version of 100, No. 61, 8 x 7 1/4 x 6 inches

Modernism in Miniature continues on the Norton Simon Museum (411 West Colorado, Blvd., Pasadena, California) by way of January 9, 2023. The exhibition was organized by Frances Lazare.  

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