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Something's A Foot: Small Works from the Hofstra University Museum Collection

David Filderman Gallery

January 4 - September 12, 2010


Art does not have to be large to create an impact.  One of the most famous and frequently published paintings of the 20th century is Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory (the melting clocks in a barren landscape).  It measures just 9 ½ inches high by 13 inches wide.  In the late 20th and early 21st century, contemporary art is often created on a grand scale:  an installation fills an entire gallery or a photograph covers the whole wall.  In this exhibition, Something’s A Foot: Small Works from the Hofstra University Museum Collection, all the works of art measure 12 inches or less in all directions.  The size of the works of art may depend upon the object’s purpose, the state of technology at the time or it may simply be the artist’s choice.

These intimate, small scale works of art reflect the diversity of objects in the Museum’s collection.  The collection contains approximately 4,500 works of art from numerous countries and cultures and spans hundreds of years.  Along with the cultural diversity, the media of the pieces range from paint, pencil, wood, metal, and stone to ceramics.   Delving into the collection, we rediscovered pieces not seen in many years; this is in fact the first time a number of works of art have been exhibited.

In this exhibition the size of the object is a common trait.  It is also a trait that is reflected in the art of different cultures.  The African wood carvings, Indian bronzes and Mayan ceramics were all used for ceremonial or religious rituals, as were the Puerto Rican Santos figures.  The smaller scale of the works was an integral aspect of their function—they were used by individuals in their homes or to carry on their person.

A number of the prints, such as the ones by René Magritte and Patrick Hughes, were used in publications and the print image needed to conform to a specific size.  Technology also has played a role in the smaller dimensions of the prints.  Advances in printmaking and photography have allowed contemporary artists to work on a scale (large or small) not possible earlier in the 20th century.

Many of the artists simply made a creative chose to work in a more intimate scale.  Small scale studies for larger works of art, like those of Diego Rivera and George Romney, were done to work out the details of a larger composition. Small paintings and sculptures by Dorothy Dehner, Carl Holty, Lila Katzen, Nathaniel Kaz, David Levine, and Max Weber are complete works of art in their own right. 

This exhibition reveals the tremendous diversity of small scale works in the Museum’s collection and brings thoughtful consideration to the larger meaning inherent in works of diminutive size. 

Click here to view an interview with the curator of Something's A Foot: Small Works from the Hofstra University Museum Collection, Hofstra University Museum's Assistant Director of Exhibitions and Collections, Karen Albert as seen on FIOS 1 News Long Island.

Three Kings

Quintero Caban
The Three Kings, 19th century
Hofstra University Museum Collection, HU 71.82

Sir Francis Seymour Haden, Battersea Reach

Sir Francis Seymour Haden
Battersea Reach, 1863
Hofstra University Museum Collection, HU 72.17

Indian Bronze

India
Krishna, 18th century
Hofstra University Museum Collection, HU 72.54

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