Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
North Adams, MA
An ambitious new installation combining small sculptures and large videos, Radical Small is Richmond, Virginia-based artist Elizabeth King’s most expansive one-person exhibition to date. Utilizing one of MASS MoCA’s largest exhibition spaces on the museum’s second floor, King examines the notion of radical smallness, or what French philosopher Gaston Bachelard has called “intimate immensity.”
“By starting with the smallest, most subtle of gestures,” notes curator Denise Markonish, “King absorbs our full attention, drawing us into a world where the small engulfs us and allows us to dream.” As the artist herself puts it, “In sculpture, when you represent a body at a size different from its own, metaphor rushes in.” King combines precisely movable half-scale figurative sculptures with projections of stop-motion video animations in works that skillfully merge and confuse the boundary between actual and virtual objects. Intimate in scale — this is theater for an audience of one — and made to solicit close viewing, the work reflects her interests in early clockwork automata, the history of the mannequin, puppetry, and literature’s host of legends in which the artificial figure comes to life. For MASS MoCA, King will test the power of small sculpture to articulate and command a large double-height gallery, staging an extended exchange of dimensionality and scale through the languages of sculpture, film, and animation. Additionally King will use the gallery as an animation studio for the first two weeks of the exhibition, producing a new film of her sculptures at MASS MoCA.
“King’s works, even when still, seem alive. They are animated in the most fundamental sense of the word,” notes Markonish. “They look back at us. Their uncanny humanness literalizes art’s ability to meet and confront our gaze.”
“I want a portrait, not so much of a person, but of a verb,” King says. “Maybe the sculpture is like a violin, and the pose is the sonata. Finding the pose and lighting it precisely — I’m amazed at the difference a few degrees of tilt make in how we read the position of the head. If I move the eyes so the gaze shifts away from face on, even just slightly, a thread of tension enters the pose. I love the visceral evidence of impermanence, not in the object itself, but in its pose at any given moment.”
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website