BIG Deal: Sizeable Paintings from the Permanent Collection

September 5 - December 17, 2017

In the context of postwar art, size very much matters. BIG Deal highlighted monumental canvases from the permanent collection, many of which had not been on view in recent years, in an attempt to unpack preoccupations with size in post-1945 art. What compelled these artists to work at such a large scale? What does sheer size argue about the paintings in question?


The canvases on view in BIG Deal, all of which measured at least five feet in a single dimension, ranged from abstract to figurative. Drawing on the ambitious scale of academic history painting, a number of the paintings explored the narrative potential of the nude figure, while other politically charged works warned against violence brought on by war, the displacement of peoples, and cultural conflict. Other large canvases, however, were not so declamatory. Quiet interior scenes and quotidian objects served as artistic fodder for painters desiring to monumentalize the commonplace.


While the exhibition highlighted numerous works created—and acquired—in the 1970s, BIG Deal reminded us that concerns with size continue to loom large in contemporary art.


Spaciously installed, the exhibition featured sizeable paintings by Lawrence Calcagno, Martha Mayer Erlebacher, Tsibi Geva, Robert Goodnough, Ben Kamihira, Jerry Kearns, Ida Lorentzen, John Mandel, Philip Pearlstein, Mark Sheinkman, and Jerome Witkin.


Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art.