4th 12x12: A National Exhibition of Small-Scale Works of Art
Thank you to Dr. Brad Bartel, MTSU University Provost; Dr. Mark Byrnes, Dean, College of Liberal Arts; and Jean Nagy, Chair, Department of Art.
According to a certain philosophical tradition art forms are always the expression of the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. It seems hard to believe that 12 x 12 is a format that organically grows out of the current age. It is a rather forced format, imposed as the basic playing field for an artistic competition. Given its relative smallness, I was surprised at how many artists were willing to wrestle with the format. On a scale between miniature and the mural painting or the sculptural monument, 12 x 12 is closer to the miniature, bringing to mind the precious hidden object. One might think of everyday things that have special meaning, an ancient carved effigy, a Russian doll, a Faberge egg, a family photograph, but slightly taller. We don’t know exactly how these artists arrived at this format. Maybe they simply complied with the competition guidelines. Maybe the Zeitgeist is at work, and we don’t even know it. The object is what’s left, what perhaps remains of other formats tested out and abandoned. The object carries a trace of the process that led the artist here, the idea, the craftsmanship, and also the push against the boundaries of the 12 x 12 box. What we can witness in a show like this, is the triggering of a new dimension, an inside-and-outside-the-box experience. The most successful work here illuminates the constraints of the box, asserts it and attacks it at the same time, makes the viewer aware of it and then forget it altogether.
Jochen Wierich, Ph.D.
Curator of Art
Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art