That’s massive! No wait… it’s tiny. Art works that mess with your sense of scale
10:27 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Body of Knowledge, Jaume Plensa, 2010
The impulse to create art at either end of the scale of size -- works that are so large, or so small, that they barely seem possible -- appears to be instinctive. Throughout history, we have marveled at intricately crafted objects, whether it be fine carving, jewelry or sculpture. Likewise, grand projects that have an impact on the wider environment and leave a lasting legacy have long instilled appreciation and wonder, from megalithic stone monuments to the Nazca lines of the Andes.
The Silent Evolution (Mexico), Jason deCaires Taylor, 2010
This British artist has become internationally acclaimed for his underwater sculptures. Installed on the seabed, these predominantly figurative works are transformed into artificial reefs, which in turn increase marine biomass and provide a habitat for fish species. As well as providing an attraction that diverts tourist divers away from more fragile natural reefs, they often have an environmental message.
Courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor 2010
Block G1-25 (w/Know Hope), Evol, 2010
Berlin-based Tore Rinkveld, aka Evol, is perhaps best known for transforming everyday features of our cityscape into mini concrete tower blocks through the medium of paint. Inspired by architecture, which he sees as a mirror for society, he paints directly onto the surface of electrical enclosures, concrete planters and other familiar features of the modern city.
Courtesy of Evol, 2010
Proxy (Haven Ln), Thomas Doyle, 2012
This American artist creates intricate worlds encased under glass domes or bell jars, as if captured by a collector. Crafted at a scale of 1:43 -- sometimes smaller -- these scenes are somehow familiar, depicting the suburban landscapes we are accustomed to seeing in Hollywood movies, with white picket fences and immaculate lawns, but in moments after catastrophe has struck.
Courtesy of Thomas Doyle 2012
Black Drip, Liliana Porter, 2009
The Argentinian artist Liliana Porter explores the disconnection and distance between reality and representation, particularly through her use of "theatrical vignettes", which she creates as subjects for her photographs, videos and installations. She forms narratives that are engaging and humorous, but on further inspection reveal layers of pathos and careful observations of life's everyday struggles.
Courtesy of Liliana Porter, 2009
Out of Disorder (Neonscape), Tahiro Iwasaki, 2012
This work features pylons made from threads from soft toys, against a backdrop of towels that suggest an undulating mountain range. By displacing our ideas of scale and combining incongruous materials with highly-engineered micro models, Iwasaki creates a world that is both familiar and surprising.
Courtesy of Takahiro Iwasaki, 2011
Phenotypic Remodeling, Takahiro Iwasaki, 2012
"I produce work on a small scale in order to impact the viewer's perspective and subjective view," says Iwasaki. "A small work on the floor forces us to crouch down and see it from a rat's perspective. Being at that level makes us think of the microscopic, day-to-day things around us -- a stain on the wall, dust on the floor or the shell of a bug -- as well as the work. In this way, we realize that the scale of an object is always affected by the position of the viewer and his or her distance from the object."
Courtesy of Yin Xiuzhen, 2008
Amsterdam. Janet Echelman, 2012-13
This American artist is known for her monumental art installations: intricately-woven net sculptures that light up the sky with their billowing, colorful forms. Responding to wind, water and light, these mesmerizing works transform public spaces into contemplative oases. Exploring the potential of unusual materials, from fishing nets to atomized water particles, she combines craft with high-tech media to create works that are precisely engineered, yet charmingly ethereal.
In this age of rapid change, the exploration of scale has become markedly more ambitious, fueled by globalization and advances in technology. Whether working big or small, artists are embracing the futuristic tools at their disposal -- technology they could only have dreamed of in the past -- to create virtually any object imaginable.
Courtesy of Leandro Erlich 2012
Pigments for Plants and Balloons, Katharina Grosse, 2008
The sheer pace of transformation is affecting the way we use space, from the public and cultural spheres to the digital realm. While artists take a more global approach, art institutions in cities around the world have been competing to put themselves on the map with large-scale commissions that make a bold statement.
Courtesy of Katharina Grosse 2008
Out of Disorder (Cosmo World), Takahiro Iwasaki, 2011
Scale provides a source of eternal fascination from which artists continue to draw inspiration. This sculpture, by the Japanese artist Takahiro Iwasaki, is made out of hair and dust.
Courtesy of Takahiro Iwasaki, 2011
Neodiabolepsis, Nicolas Labadia, 2008
This sense of disorientation can also be found in works at the opposite end of the scale. The Chilean artist Nicolas Labadia uses discarded objects collected during long walks around Santiago -- a mixture of manufactured and organic items -- he creates a parallel micro world of small-scale hybrid creatures.