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Size Matters at Fe Gallery 

The exhibit entitled Size Matters asks: In our Supersize-It society, is bigger necessarily better when it comes to art?

What were you thinking the title meant?

Local and national artists have contributed work on large and small scales to a Fe Gallery show confronting the importance of size in art while exploring such disparate matters as age, gender -- and even "found" art, as discovered on the gallery's floor.

"Tools for Living" (2005), by Barbara Schreiber of North Carolina, is a series of 30 Lilliputian acrylic works on paper, measuring approximately one square inch each. Reproducing advertisements from mail-order catalogs for senior citizens, they include images of a hot-water bottle, a shower cap and some kind of whatzit for false teeth. The artist's statement tells how at a younger age she'd thumb through such catalogs for amusement; now, when she might find some of these items useful, the images produce a "sense of nostalgia and anxiety." While not particularly engaging visually, they do serve as a kind of a Pop Art-ish memento mori.

Exploring the seemingly prosaic "Floorscape," by Connie Cantor, is anything but pedestrian. It consists of a magnifying glass suspended just a few inches from the gallery's aged floor while, hung on the wall across the gallery, four large strips of paper serve as a single canvas. Under the magnifying glass, the oft-trodden wooden floorboards are seen to be streaked with a black, tar-like substance and white paint flecks from long-ago shows, along with other unidentifiable smudges. It's all stuff you'd normally overlook. Yet while magnification helps you perceive the ordinary, there's magic to the accompanying paper strips, where Cantor translates the images from the floor into an abstract creation full of interminable swirls, swishes and curlicues.

A second Cantor offering is "No Conception" (2006). It's a series of smaller-to-larger-scale contraceptive diaphragms, mounted on the gallery's far-end wall. Each includes a tiny hole at its center, through which is visible a photo of a different young, nude woman -- figures whom Cantor collectively identifies as Mexican prostitutes. Voyeurism aside, "Conception" asks visitors to "look at the five standardized shapes" of the diaphragms and consider the vast number of women who are excluded by pharmaceutical companies.

"Living Room Couch" (2005), by Alexandra Alessi, explores "words-versus-reality" themes. The word "couch" might summon adjectives like "big," "soft" and "comfy." The creation on hand: a blue-and-white-striped ceramic creation, complete with a separate throw pillow, that's a little over a foot long and only several inches high.

At a distance, Alexandra Etschmaier's "To What End?" (2006) looks as if a tree has sprouted from the gallery's center space from a bag of magic beans. Closer inspection reveals that the sculpture of brown sisal, wire and glue, not only fits seamlessly into the wooden ceiling beams above, but actually "continues" downstairs, in the gallery's basement. Bulging here, recessing there, "End" has a mysterious kind of living, almost animated quality. One expects it to start swaying as it ascends out of sight.

Harder to spot than a mosquito on a wall -- hence, the accompanying binoculars --is John C. Pena's "The World's Smallest Sunset" (2004), a faint, maybe half-inch-tall pencil drawing. More curious is how what appears to be a one-of-a-kind installation was actually produced two years ago.

So, Size Matters?

As with most things, it's how you work it.

click to enlarge Size Matters continues through Nov. 28. Fe Gallery, 4102 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-860-6028.
  • Size Matters continues through Nov. 28. Fe Gallery, 4102 Butler St., Lawrenceville. 412-860-6028.

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