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Mini series: All Small Redux

Honey, I shrunk the art.

When it came to art in the 20th century, bigger was better. All Small Redux at Agnes Scott College's Dalton Gallery, however, reconsiders the conundrum of scale by looking through the other end of the telescope. Nothing in All Small exceeds 6 inches in any dimension, or about a minute in length for video works. The hundreds of works by 47 artists range from itty-bitty paintings to teeny-tiny sculptures, from quickie videos to mini installations. All in all, the collected works demonstrate that big ideas can be packed into small spaces.

In Tom Zarrilli's "Spectacles for Tourists," the artist covers the lenses of four pairs of glasses with idealized images of exotic locations. The critique may be simple – that tourists see mostly what their brochures tell them to see, not what's actually there – but the small scale and elegant execution fit the bill precisely.

Small works require a different way of looking. They invite close approaches, leaning in, squinting – exactly how such works are often made. The transfer of intimacy from the art maker to the art viewer is direct and powerful.

The show's most successful pieces are those that must exist as small works, rather than dollhouse reproductions. Cosmo Whyte invokes the intimacy of family photographs through painting and drawing. Jenny "Bunny Buns" Young uses dioramas to create fetishized objects of worship. Cecelia Kane works in embroidery to weird ends. In each case, the artist understands that manipulating the last joint at the end of the index finger can contain every bit as much energy as flinging paint by swinging the arm from the shoulder.

Faring somewhat less well are pieces that seem to treat small objects as stand-ins for unrealized larger works. Rebekah Berger's mixed-media compositions, for example, and Nell Ruby's "Window Boxes" feel like placeholders or sketches for things that want to be much bigger. But even these works invite thinking about what it means to be small.

All Small Redux reprises a similar exhibition mounted at Eyedrum in 2002. The new edition is an engaging call to consider small moments and tiny spaces, and to search out the big life that lives within.

arts@creativeloafing.com



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