BIG presents over thirty large-scale, modern and contemporary artworks from MMoCA’s permanent collection, including works by Sam Gilliam, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jennifer Steinkamp. Historically, large-scale art was reserved for mural paintings in the narrative tradition, but soon artists adopted large canvases to capture new and big ideas—particularly the Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s. This shift to a larger scale demanded galleries and museums adjust their spaces and viewers alter their way of engaging with the work. Through these large works, artists created a physical experience that demanded the viewer’s attention.
More than other formal elements in the visual arts—such as color, line, or shape—scale directs attention towards the capacity of the artwork to respond to a specific location and call into play the role of the viewer. Above all, the large-scale works of art in this exhibition have the ability to astonish.
To date, generous funding for BIG has been provided by Nancy Mohs; the Theda and Tamblin Clark Smith Family Foundation; Cathie and Jim Burgess; Bell Laboratories; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.